In listening to the latest from Dawes – part of the Laurel Canyon sound hailing from the northern hills of Los Angeles – one can’t help but draw relaxed comparisons to the forefathers of old. Brimming with influences from the likes of Crosby, Stills, Nash and the Young one, the music is relaxed, soulful, and nothing shy of charming.
The band’s sophomore release, the confidently titled Nothing is Wrong follows similar formulas to the 2009 sleeper, hometown named, North Hills. Of course, the two years between albums were not spent in quiet recording studios across the American west; rather, constant touring, side-projects, and numerous television appearances (A jam out with Robbie Robertson and *gasp* The View notwithstanding) were just a few of the adventures undertaken by the four-piece between records.
Nothing is Wrong, by comparison, is a much less frenzied effort than frontman Taylor Goldsmith’s excellent side-project, Middle Brother. Sharing stage antics with John J. McCauley III and Matt Vasquez (of Deer Tick and Delta Spirit fame, respectively), the frantic, redneckery of the three-piece’s 2011 full length is much bolder than the slow, sincere crooning Nothing is Wrong boasts.
However, the stray from the their own beaten path is not without notice on the latest effort. While the same Dawes’ sound of slow paced ballads with a touch of organ and familiar tin and twangs from the strings are strong characters, the moments of pulse jumping tracks are not without appreciation. Of note, “The Way You Laugh” as an open love letter filled with metaphors and candid recollections is undeniably catchy – even with the less than comprehensible lyrics. Then again, maybe that’s the point. It’s not a letter for us after all.
Harmonies are at an all time strength (as one cannot deny when sat down in front of “How Far We’ve Come”), and lyrically Taylor has hit his stride as what could be one of the youngest and most talented frontmen in the American folk revival movement – jotting him up alongside sometimes on-stage collaborator Conor Oberst.
For those of us that have yet to find that well-needed bit of summer sound to take them through the remaining short months ahead, well, Dawes are a surefire bet. We spend all year waiting for the now and current, my friends, so how could we let anything wrong? Nothing is Wrong, and that sure as hell is good as gospel for a day like this.
We’re in an interesting place right now, my friends.
Evidently, it’s been just shy of a month without having an album of note come across my radar. Fortunately, I’ve been near obsessed with the introductory (I was going to call it “virginal” but that seemed a bit disreputable, huh?) release of Middle Brother.
While the act has been referred to as a “folk supergroup”, that’s just another example of blandish, lazy writing. Comprising the three-piece of undeniably folk savvy talent is John H. McCauley III (awesome name, by the way) of Deer Tick, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, and Matt Vasquez of Delta Spirit. Making their debut but a year ago at 2010′s SXSW under the moniker MGV, the trio are a erratic and reflective twang that is as endearingly sweet as it is bitterly blunt in matters of heart, mind, soul, and stole.
But a supergroup? Come on, guys. However, as mentioned, their self-titled effort is one hell of an trip through blunt, drunk, hearted, happy and lovesick living.
Starting on the slow and swooning track, “Daydreaming”, the boys hit their pace on the knee-slappingly memorable “Blue Eyes”; with lines like “she’s a southern girl without a drawl, she’s a good girl who wears black bras,” well, the twang and charm of Middle Brother is hard to deny. It isn’t all blue skies and wit throughout the 12 song spanning effort, though — not by a long-shot. In fact, my only real criticism with the 48 minute long release is its lack of fluidity. The quick tempo’d and catchy are swiftly followed with devastating songs of regret, reflection and the recollections of a lost crooner in an uninterested world. Really, it gets heavy and light all too quickly.
Again, that’s a very minor criticism — the slow and brooding are as memorably fantastic as their opposites. Notably in the lead-footed, harmony driven “Thanks for nothing”; a song that thanks a former lover for ruining the narrator for everyone to follow (wamp, wamp):
“Now the only girls I meet are looking for hearts that they can fix, but mine is more like a kid that has gone missing… now there’s a pretty girl in front of me that I know I won’t let in, and I have you to thank for that — thanks for nothing.”
Retrospectively the constantly changing vocals and tones of Middle Brother make for a hell of a trip. After stumbling your way through the just shy of a 50 minute spin, the album is, well, exhausting. Ending on a track that seems to wink and nod to the faces of the past (The Band, Neil Young, Bobby D., and similar legends of the vinyl yesteryears) Middle Brother is one of those rare and brilliantly fulsome acts that seem oh-so rare as they exist between the cracks. Which, you know, makes sense as they’re named after the in-between and oft overlooked.
Goddamn, but don’t the hand-me-downs seem to be doing the trick though.
I get along with everyone but recently I’m spent, I’m most happy when I’m dreaming of success and all my good friends call me ‘Wilderness‘