Tuesday, March 7, 2017

When I Was a Baby: Dawes' "All Your Favorite Bands"

In her early years, I had quite a bit of fun shaping P’s musical experiences. Since she has been driving to elementary school with her mother, however, my musical influence has diminished. Its interesting, however, to see how that early musical environment resonates with how she hears music today. I recently had the title track from Dawes’ All Your Favorite Bands playing and when the piano introduction came on she immediately recalled how much she liked the song because she used to listen to it "when she was a baby."

I did not have the heart to tell her that there is no way that it could be true. I got the album at the beginning of this year in my Christmas Booty, so she most likely had never heard the song before January, and almost certainly not in a way that she would remember from her infancy.

Calendrical realities aside, I understand where she is coming from. There is something immediately familiar about the song. In a perfect world, it would be played at every High School graduation. What she did, I think, was catch on to one of the many magical aspects of Dawes. No matter how old or how young you are, they create instant nostalgia in the best possible way. It’s not a crafted, manufactured nostalgia like M83 or Tame Impala employ, but an essential earnestness that they share with many classic song-driven bands. Granted, they don’t really sound like Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, or the Beatles, but they distill their best aspects into a distinctive reinterpretation.

The devoted Dawes fan will notice that I am a little behind the curve by getting into All Your Favorite Bands at the beginning of 2017. Stories Don’t End was my 2014 Album of the Year, and it seems that I should be eager to follow it up, but fear of disappointment made me apprehensive. Dawes consistently stands out, however, by being ingenious wordsmiths. Taylor Goldsmith’s penchant for eloquently addressing the everyday mundane had made him my favorite lyricist, hands down. He often crafts lines that seem like the throwaway meanderings of his stream of consciousness, but their underlying continuity begs the dedicated listener to question the importance of every verse. Check out the subtle Heideggerianisms in Right on Time.

As much as I like to point out Dawes’ lyric strengths, All Your Favorite Bands also contains many outstanding instrumental moments, perhaps in a more noticeable way than its predecessor. In several instances, extended guitar solos and memorable instrumental riffs do more than just service the songs - they expand them. I Can’t Think About it Now, in particular, contains a passionately delivered guitar solo that stands apart from the rest of the song, giving it a sense of departure and return.


Despite being a great album, however, All Your Favorite Bands probably won’t end up as the 2017 album of the year. Aside from having a few other recordings that resonate with me more strongly, there is the sense that some forced moments lurk in the album’s recesses.  This is only an impression, however, and although it will probably be enough to pull it down from that top slot, it has very little impact on the overall album.  The strengths of All Your Favorite Bands far outshine these moments, making the overall experience very rewarding.

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