Vocal Duos in Music – Throwback Thursday

Following up from last week, here’s the next in my “Listening to Music Without Understanding It” series! This one originally sparked some good recommendations, and I’ve found some new ones since. But if you have more recommendations, definitely pass them along!

Recently we went to see The Manhattan Transfer in concert. Not a band I had known, but we took the opportunity to go see some live music! It was a great concert, and they definitely still have their skills.

Early on in the concert, they introduced harmony, and how it works, demonstrating as they added one each to the combination. It made me think about harmony, and groups with multiple singers, and how maybe that was something that there used to be a lot more of – but for a while there wasn’t as much. And I feel like it’s coming back.

I really like bands that have multiple people singing, and am really enjoying some of the groups doing more of this. Not like the boy bands or girl bands, where maybe they each do some singing, just to highlight each of them and show them as a personality – to try to spin off solo careers. No, no. The bands where the point is that there’s more than one singer. And the best, in my opinion, is when a man and a woman are both singing, back and forth.

The Raconteurs

I think the band where I really picked up on this and noticed it, and noticed that I really liked it, was with The Raconteurs. This band was made up of a number of artists pulling together to make a band that only lasted two albums. Most notable were the two lead singers, Jack White – formerly of the White Stripes – and Brendan Benson. These two, before and since, have done quite a bit of music, and I like their solo work. But this was my introduction to both of them.

If you missed the Raconteurs, I still recommend their music for sure. There’s some back-and-forth, the songs are different from one another, and they kind of explore all kinds of sounds from rock, country, and blues. 

I also checked out Jack White’s next band, The Dead Weather, which mainly had a female lead singer but had a few great songs with she and Jack White both singing. They were all right, really raw – which seems intentional.

Of Monsters and Men

I think the best example of this out there right now is Of Monsters and Men, and most especially in their hit single, Little Talks. This song is so blisteringly sad, when you listen to it: the man is singing to his dying, and then dead, love. Not actually a lot of songs that tackle a topic like that, and even less where you get to hear both voices in a situation like that.

The music video, on the other hand, is either unbelievably abstract, or really just completely unrelated as I think it is. It’s a great listen, but an odd one to watch.

Other Examples

I can think of a few other examples. For instance, The Decemberists. They don’t feature their female singer nearly as much as I would like, but especially in their album The Hazards of Love, they give her a lot of room to breathe. Or, well, sing. Lots of back-and-forth, lots of variety.

Another is The Civil Wars. I don’t have any of their albums, but my wife does, and I like hearing them whenever she plays them. This is reminding me I really need to get those from her for my devices…

But partially, I love this sort of music, and see it resurging now – but there must be more out there! Any examples you would recommend? And do you like bands like this – or dislike it, favoring a lead singer you can follow? Let me know in the comments below!


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