It doesn’t take more than a few notes into the first song of Dawes second, and latest, record to figure out they are a Los Angeles based folk rock band. The songs channel the sound of other California folk-rock like Jackson Browne, and literally feature his voice on the song, “Fire Away.” They combine this with a more indie-folk flavor reminiscent of Wilco. Making for a laid back, yet complicated mix of music and lyrics.
Dawes is composed of brothers Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith, along with Wylie Gelber and Tay Strathairn. While originally going for more of a punk-rock sounds, the band eventually developed into more of a folk band with the departure of songwriter Blake Mills. They wrote their latest album while touring extensively of the last two years.
While the themes of this album can be seen in light of this extensive travel, the thread I find reappearing again and again, is the struggle to understand complicated relationships. In “Time Spent in Los Angeles,” Taylor begins by explaining how simple romantic relationships seem from a youthful, naive perspective,
I used to think someone would love me
for places I have been
and the dirt I have been gathering
deep beneath my nails
And in “Coming Back to a Man,”
You still wear your hair to your shoulder
You still look like a Friday night
You're still caught somewhere between the plans and the dreams
But quickly follows it up with,
And I myself look a few moments older
When I learned that love is not as simple as I thought
It starts to feel more real and the wounds all start to heal
Whether I want them to or not
The album is an exploration of these complexities. That real relationships have to be lived into rather than orchestrated from objective abstraction. And that means they will take some effort, for this band you don’t fall in love, you run down hill into it, trying to be agile as you stumble on any number of hurdles on your way.
But rather than becoming overwhelmed by the complexities of relationship, Dawes instead takes on a celebratory tone as recognizes the richness and beauty that exist in and in between people. It is an optimistic outlook, but it never comes off as anything less than an authentic take from a slightly older brother.
- Greg Veltman