Austin – Dawes are six years and four albums deep into their career now that All Your Favorite Bands is out (as of June 2nd). They’re still a young band, but not exactly a new one. All Your Favorite Bands seems like a good place to take stock. What have they done since emerging from California six years ago? Have they grown as a band?
The album title suggests this will be the same old Dawes. Communal and nostalgic, its low key warmth of the name fits well on a band that’s made good by avoiding the excesses of Fleet Foxes. It wouldn’t be surprising if that’s how the record turned out, given some of the band’s past hits—the arch-example would probably be “Most People”. But when you press play and the first somber notes of “Things Happen” drift through the stereo it becomes clear this is no such record. All Your Favorite Bands is a sendoff to a lover from the first track to the last. It’s not as if they haven’t written those songs before, but All Your Favorite Bands is still a radical step forward for the band, with clarity and focus that come from a well-executed artistic agenda. Like Rumours, it isn’t quite a concept album, but its ruminations give the impression that there’s a story behind it.
The record picked the right song to take it’s name from—“All Your Favorite Bands” is maybe the best place to start when trying to figure out what this record is all about. While “All Your Favorite Bands” addresses a lover (just like every other song on this record), it manages to bundle and summarize all the faces of a crumbling relationship that show up elsewhere on the album. Namely, bitterness, well-wishing, and the frustration of juggling those contradictory emotions, distilled in the lines “I hope life without a chaperone is everything you thought it’d be, I hope your brother’s El Camino runs forever, I hope the world sees the same person that you’ve always been to me, and may all your favorite bands stay together.” Musically, “All Your Favorite Bands” is fairly reserved. A piano ballad of the kind re-popularized by Avett Brothers, with the distinction of a fuzzy 70’s guitar riff to add volume and emphasis at the chorus.
That guitar sound is a big component of this record. It gives the record a sense of datedness to complement the nostalgia for lost love. It’s especially prominent on “Right On Time,” one of the record’s only real foot stompers, and even then it plods, with a walking baseline and straightforward drum beat. But there’s a genius to just how much they build around this rigid framework. When everything but drums and bass cut out this is “Eye of the Tiger,” but with guitar and piano it becomes Neil Young.
Besides “Right On Time” and “I Can’t Think About It Now,” a good beat that indulges slightly too much jamming in its 6:00 minutes, All Your Favorite Bands is bedroom music. Which is appropriate given the topic, but still a little unfortunate. In the past Dawes have made their best music in the middle to middle-high tempo range. But as a well-crafted record, All Your Favorite Bands does a good job making bedroom music that’s sure to play well on stage. Dawes have always been good arrangers, and especially good at creating lush productions without going over the top. “Waiting For Your Call” showcases that talent in full, using a subtler range of techniques than the simple “loud quiet” to create contrast between the verses and choruses. A little more guitar fuzz and a little more volume on the organ creates a suddenly filled-out arrangement, a mellow crescendo that still allows the vocals to take prominence at the chorus’ apex. If anything it’s something this record could do more of. There’s a tad too much bluesy jam session on this record, and for all its virtuosity it never sounds very distinctive.
All Your Favorite Bands is a well executed iteration of something we’ve all heard elsewhere, which is sort of the point. Dawes have always emulated the best records your parents listen to—The Eagles, Dire Straits, Fleetwood Mac. It’s safe as safe can be, and while listenable to anyone, its appeal beyond that may be limited. What’s significant for the band and its listeners is its thoughtfulness and maturity, qualities that can sustain a lengthy career.
For more on Dawes go HERE.