Release Date: Sep 16, 2016
Record label: Hub Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
All told, the album vibrates with a dichotomous energy that somehow brings to mind an improbable mix of Tom Petty, Paul Simon, and Electric Light Orchestra. And it's an energy that flows from Goldsmith's lyrics as he finds layers of metaphysical irony and eye-winking depth to unveil in his steady, warm croon. As Goldsmith sings on "As If by Design," "The stars were just the holes punched in the shoebox/That gives a creature all the air he needs to breathe/As if every constellation was just a form of ventilation/From a captor too enormous to conceive.
Dawes barely sounds like the Dawes we knew anymore. Throughout its first two (or partially three, depending on your point of view) albums, the California band made its name by pairing retro folk rock with earnest lyrics seemingly stemming from personal experience and a strong sense of nostalgia. But on its fifth studio LP, We’re All Gonna Die, Dawes drastically veers off this course both musically and lyrically.
On their four previous albums, Dawes were SoCal country-rock revivalists. Now, they've slicked up their Seventies ideal, with a big FM-radio sound built on string sections, processed vocals, glockenspiels and vintage synths. Singer-guitarist Taylor Goldsmith is too nice a guy to really step into the role of mirror-shade cynic; he calls L.A. an "air-conditioned town where you live life hunched over your phone." But the band's breezy harmonies (aided by pals from Jim James to Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard) on songs like "Picture of a Man" and "No Good Reason" are a perfect complement to his gentle malaise.
“It all runs together, as if by design.” So concludes the final song of Dawes’ new album, We’re All Gonna Die, which is by far their most ambitious to date. There’s something awe-inspiring about this lyric when pitted against the cynicism of the album title. Perhaps Dawes are simultaneously acknowledging the need to adapt oneself but to still remain cohesive, as the artist’s time is limited.