Dawes Newest is their Most Formidable To Date
written by Vaughn Oliver
Dawes’ formula for songwriting might seem straight forward – intro, verse, chorus, repeat, break, etc. – but the folk-rock/Americana variations, entwined with Taylor Goldsmith’s golden tongue, makes each song unique. Their fifth and latest full length effort, We’re All Gonna Die, is no exception. Dawes takes interesting music and pairs it with emotional story-telling; although with lyricism that rivals the depth of novellas and intricate musicianship to match. Dawes’ newest creation is their most formidable album to date.
The opening track, “One Of Us”, instantly sets itself apart from Dawes’ previous releases. An unrelenting fuzzy, indie-rock rhythm shows us the vaguely familiar stylings we know of Dawes, yet in a brand new way. Eventually releasing itself to a reaffirming chorus break which strips it down to basic Dawes, before heading back into the groove. It’s a meaty opener, perfect for the occasion. The next song, the title track “We’re All Gonna Die”, takes a complete turn and is floaty, big and space-like. Taylor’s uplifting falsetto marries sadness and beauty, as he sings about the one thing that every living being has in common – death. A track that is haunting and comforting at the same time.
Channelling an inner Paul Simon, “Picture Of A Man” is a gospel, organ driven, story about the human effort to find meaning in oneself. The lyrics are cryptic, and the music is unmistakably complex. Oh, and Mandy Moore makes an appearance in the post-chorus, which is unexpected and surprisingly fun. The bass is driving, and the percussion is snappy and somewhat exotic. “Less Than 5 Miles Away” is more akin to classic Dawes; production is a little subtler, focusing mostly on the sound of acoustic guitars, bass and drums, with clean vocals accompanying. And how the track fades out is interesting and dynamic. Listen to it.
“Roll Tide” is an interesting story. An expression I’ve never heard before, but am now convinced is at least inspired by the University of Alabama’s football team, Crimson Tide – Whose motto is, you guessed it, Roll Tide. Dawes is also a city in Alabama. Coincidence, I think not. It’s a relaxing, rainy day song, “When what we want the most, has us terrified / Roll Tide.” I’m bringing this idiom to Canada, and you can’t stop me. We are then led to a house party in “When The Tequila Runs Out”. You know the kind with a pool in the back, people walking around as if searching for something, a real mess of a gathering. I can’t get over the feeling that the song has a deeper level, one that is discussing how one must wade through the rough (the tequila) to get to the good stuff (the champagne).
The last three songs really hit home hard. “For No Good Reason” explores the meaning of three very impacting situations, sadness, divorce, and suicide. While trying to make meaning out of these events, “Maybe it’s the mood that he’s in just for the day”, we’re left with the thought that maybe there’s not always a reason, or no good reason at all. “Quitter”, the word having a somewhat negative connotation, is a surprisingly uplifting song which brings back the fuzzy guitar and its brother, groove. A simple, effective, chorus chants “You’re gonna have to quit everything / Until you find something you won’t”, stop wasting your own time, essentially. And to top it off, “As If By Design” gives the listener a feeling that maybe everything does make sense; how could it not? The world is a magnificent combination of cause and effect, and it all must mean something. Doesn’t it have to? Oh, and the piano in this track is amazing. On top of everything else.
The album embraces the duality of life and death, meaning and chaos. We all search for our own reasons and, for better or for worse, we are all faced with life and death. It’s bittersweet, and it makes for an amazing album.
That, and Dawes is a well oiled machine running on nothing short of all cylinders. Musically and lyrically, it’s stunning.
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written by Vaughn Oliver