I’ve grown obsessed with their single “The Wire” (I literally had it on repeat for about 6 hours yesterday; I was in a bad place…) and have been trying to give the rest of the album more spins as of late. They kind of terrify me (did you see them on SNL?) but I like that, rock chicks should be able to be themselves on stage. So I hope there is more to them but I somehow fear there isn’t; the LP is kind of a weird pop/dubstep/rock mix (think 90’s Michael Jackson meets Ke$ha meets Heart). Despite this, there are some solid songs on there, and they get the coveted Newcomer of the Year #10 slot.
It’s technically 2 LPs, one from 2012 and one from 2013, but I think it was combined as a full album in 2013 and I dig it. It’s about as punk/hard as I go, but it’s familiar enough with hints of the Hold Steady and Strokes to make the medicine go down.
You kind of HAVE to have these both on your list, right? Don’t get me wrong, I liked both, and they’re incredible examples of complete albums, but I feel a bit too “obligated to like” as opposed to “excited by” them.
You don’t get how badly I wanted this to be good. And it is; it’s really good. But it’s not GOOD. That makes no sense, but I have realized I can no longer define or defend the Strokes. They’re my transformative band, so I’m leading more with heart than ear here. Side note: it made me want to listen to Angles again, which is odd.
I see that in writing this Top 10 that my front 5 was full of gripes. So I guess this list is really a Top 5 and a Honorable Mention 5. So now the good stuff. This is a record I fucking loved. You can hear how much fun these guys are having in the studio. I’ve never been a huge Bon Iver fan, but he should make more dirty bar-blues music and less mopey echo-chamber missives (although I did love that song “Byegone
" by his other 2013 outfit, Volcano Choir).
You know those albums that become places
? They’re tied to a location by both play-count and the cosmic coincidence of the tracks matching up perfectly with the experience. MMJ’s Z
is that for me. I listened to it on repeat, in and out of consciousness, on a train from Berlin to Prague. It’s forever tied to that; I can’t separate it from that memory. Muchacho
joins the ranks, becoming the soundtrack of mai waiiife
and I driving all through France like a bunch of yuppies in our rented BMW. From the cliffs of Cannes to the golden fields of the Rhone wine valley, Phosphorescent played in the background and fit just so perfectly. It’s a gorgeous, fun and unexpected album, just like our trip to France. La vie est belle.
Enough of that flowery prose. This is a great rock album. It moves in fits and starts, weaving between rock genres. Let’s break them down by track:
- "The Rock" Operatic Rock
- "The Curtain" Early-Aughts Fuzz Rock
- "Just Friends" California Sunset Rock
- "The Dream’s In The Ditch" Dreamy Pop-Folk
- "Mirror Walls" Minor Key Heartbreak Crooning
- "Mr. Sticks" Storytellers Rock
- "Trash" Brassy Soul
- "Thyme" Haunted Mansion Rock
- "In Our Time" Opry Country Duet
- "Hey Doll" Piano Confessional Balladeering
- "Pot Of Gold" Thrash Rock
- "Big House" Old-School Deer Tick Rockabilly
It’s just a great listen and a really emotionally raw rock n’ roll journey.
I like to call these guys the Not-Shitty Lumineers. Male and female lead vocals, catchy hooks, backwoods twang, and mostly acoustic instrumentation, but with a backbone and a dirty side that keeps it fun and authentic. “On The Road” and “Come On, Illinois” are the two standouts, but the whole thing is a fun and cohesive album exploring themes of bootlegging, murder, infidelity and drugs. You know, normal rock stuff.
I’m not going to pretend like this is their best album (that’d be Nothing is Wrong), but Dawes is the most pure Americana rock band out there, and this is their most pure Dawes record. Somewhere between Jackson Browne, The Eagles, Tom Petty, Warren Zevon, Bruce Springsteen and Michael McDonald lies Dawes, apart from their peers for their absolute mastery of American song structure and sound. They don’t have the edge of Deer Tick, the fun energy of Delta Spirit, the marketability of Kings of Leon or the cool factor of Arcade Fire, but they write better hooks and sound more essentially American than any of them. This record is such a distillation of that ability, from the literal cross-country-travel metaphor (lyrically and musically) of “From A Window Seat” to the summer-break freedom feeling of “From The Right Angle” to cheesy pop rock of “Hey Lover” (a cover), to the depressing-but-relatable lovelornness of “Just My Luck.” It’s gorgeous and tight, clear and straightforward, powerful and soothing, and my favorite record of the year.