Dawes’ “All Your Favorite Bands” is an album that many singer-songwriter/Americana bands would be happy to put out, for all of its rich harmonies and heartfelt lyrics. But it doesn’t quite live up to the potential of a band as talented as Dawes.
There is no doubt that Dawes are one of the leading Americana acts in the country, and deservedly so. Taylor Goldsmith can write songs that can cave in a listener’s heart under the emotional weight of his lyrics and he is a very underrated guitarist who adds great texture to songs. Goldsmith and his bandmates, drummer and younger brother Griffin Goldsmith, bassist Wylie Gelber and keyboardist Tay Strathairn, have found a sweet spot where their music pays respect to the Laurel Canyon and L.A. sound of the ’70s, but is unequivocally a modern sound that is unique to Dawes.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, the elder Goldsmith stated “If you go to a Dawes show, what you see has always been a little bit beyond what you hear on a record. And for the first time we were like, (‘All Your Favorite Bands’) is a really great example of what we sound like on stage.’ ” But it is the most restrained album Dawes has recorded, the opposite of its spirited concerts. Most of the songs move at a pace similar to a contemplative moonlit drive around the neighborhood.
This isn’t to say the songs don’t sound good, they just sound too similar without enough spikes in heart rate to spice up the album. The first track, “Things Happen,” is a fine song with touching piano and metallic guitar strokes which creates a brooding atmosphere slightly different than most Dawes song. Furthermore, the message of “Things happen/ That’s all they ever do” is notable for its honest simplicity and is a comforting sentiment that wraps you in its arms. But many following songs fall in line with a similar pace without distinguishing themselves from each other, like the polished “Somewhere Along the Way” and piano ballad “All Your Favorite Bands.” Ultimately, what it is most frustrating about the album is that none of the songs make you want to get up and dance and joyfully sing along with them, which is something you want to do with your favorite bands.
One song that adds a little pep to the album is “I Can’t Think About It Now,” which does have the live, spontaneous feel Goldsmith talked about when describing the album. It moves with a little more speed than the rest of the album and the added bonus of female accompaniment with Goldsmith’s singing, which is a first in Dawes’ history and a definite positive to its sound. Goldsmith also lets loose a very inspired solo that falls right into the pocket and helps elevate the song into more energetic territory. “Now That It’s Too Late, Maria” is notable for its extended length, over nine minutes, and though it moves at a lazy pace, the length lets you settle into the essence of the song and revel in its looseness.
The meanings in Goldsmith’s lyrics are deep and relatable enough that they probably can find a time to strum on your heartstrings, depending on your mood or place in life. In that sense, “All Your Favorite Bands” has the potential to grow and become an important piece in Dawes’ discography. But as it stands, the album just feels too plain, and hopefully Dawes can turn up the energy on these songs live and go a little bit beyond what “All Your Favorite Bands” does in its studio version.
Dawes “All Your Favorite Bands”
Notable Tracks: “I Can’t Think About It Now,” “Now That It’s Too Late, Maria,” “Things Happen”Release: June 2, 2015
Label: Hub Records
ABOUT Garrett Bethmann
Garrett Bethmann is a graduate of University of Mary Washington with a degree in English. An eight-year resident of Lake Tahoe, he now lives in Denver, Colorado.