Dawes Get Jammy on New Album

Posted by Greg on Jul 22, 2022 in Music |

Worst album cover ever. Best album of 2022 candidate. That about sums it up when it comes to Dawes’ latest release The Misadventures of Doomscroller. But since this is a site of opinions, we’ll do our best to offer one as well.

There is not much to be written about California quintet Dawes that has not already been written. More than a decade-plus since their towering debut North Hills, the modern purveyors of the Laurel Canyon sound have made, very few, if any mistakes in their career thus far. Critical darlings and adored by fans across the world, they have it about as good as any band can have it. But what is art if the artist is not trying to stretch themselves? Dawes has done that quite exceptionally to date but they have never done it quite like they do on their eighth and newly released album The Misadventures of Doomscroller.

Ostensibly a jam-rock album Doomscroller finds the band noodling to their heart’s content and not giving any flips beyond just that. Oh sure Taylor Goldsmith continues waxing rhapsodic about a bevy of heavy topics and the album is a lyrical juggernaut from start to finish but there’s a refreshing breeziness about the album that seems to point towards just how much fun the band had laying all these songs down. Of course there are air-tight harmonies and some memorable hooks here and there but for the majority of the album Dawes is just messing about in a studio and doing their best to revisit an album sound and format that hasn’t been popular in at least four decades.

For starters the LP only has seven songs and one is a 90-second outro. Album opener “Someone Else’s Cafe / Doomscroller Tries to Relax” is essentially the title track but is really two songs in one. And then there’s the song length. Dawes has always loved to jam but has kept that mostly for their live shows. With an average running time of 6:50, Doomscroller is also their most adventuresome. In short, there’s nothing commercial about this release at all. But at this point in their career, who the heck cares? This is art in its purest form and hot damn it’s a wonder to behold.

Produced by longtime collaborator Jonathan Wilson (Billy Strings, Father John Misty, Angel Olsen et al) Doomscroller is bold, adventurous and even a bit aimless at times. No not in the sense that it lacks direction more like if you were out for an aimless walk with no destination in sight this might be the album you’d want in your ears. Half the songs on the album were already released as singles so much of it isn’t really a surprise. But of the four (err five) released only “Comes in Waves” has lasting commercial appeal. And maybe that’s totally okay. At the end of the album one thing is for certain: Dawes can play their instruments about as well as any touring band on the planet. There’s key changes galore, tempo changes a plenty, time signatures meandering and a bevy of guitar, key, bass and drum solos. The whole thing is sleek, polished and as dapper as James Bond at a cocktail bar sucking on Macallan whiskey.

And yet for all the deserving praise the instrumentation deserves perhaps the most crucial element of the entire album are Goldsmith’s vocals which are as note-perfect as they ever have been. Whether that’s a credit to Wilson or Goldsmith himself it is worth lauding because lyrically these might be Dawes’ most ambitious and pointed collection of lyrics to date. In the band’s newsletter on the day of the release the quartet wrote: “8 arms and 8 legs, in a room, stretching deeper than we ever knew we could.” For all the breezy sentiments above that’s exactly what this sounds like.

The word breezy here does not mean cursory and careless, no instead it means effortless, vernal and perhaps jaunty. From start to finish Doomscroller very much feels like Dawes channeling Jackson Browne via Steely Dan via Medeski Martin + Wood. And if that sounds appealing then this album will probably become one of your favorites. For us, well, this is just about everything we could ask for and it’s easily in the front-running for album of the year. Placing this album in the band’s discography is hard but we’ll put it third behind All Your Favorite Bands and North Hills and the the rest is up for contention.

Dawes is: Taylor Z.. Goldsmith (guitar, lead vocal), Wyatt Q. Gelber (handmade bass), Griffin W. Goldsmith (drums, percussion, background vocals), and Luca M. Pardini (piano, organ, synthesizers, clavinet, Wurlitzer, guitar, background vocals).
 

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