Dawes – Stories Don’t End (2013)
I have been a fan of Los Angeles band Dawes since I first heard their sensational début, “North Hills” in 2009, featuring their laid back, expansive, country-flavoured sound and beautifully crystal-clear vocals from Taylor Goldsmith. Their music is steeped in the Laurel Canyon sound of soaring melodies and close harmonies that artists such as Neil Young and Crosby, Stills & Nash made famous, but there is also a nod to country-rock artists such as Jackson Browne and The Eagles. Their third album, thankfully, hasn’t seen any major change of direction and is arguably their strongest set of songs yet, although, it has to be said, their first album is something special, a strong benchmark they will always have to live up to. The second album didn’t quite manage it, but “Stories Don’t End” is much more of a contender.
The opening track, “Just Beneath The Surface” ensures the album starts strongly, with a beautifully melodic verse leading to a soaring, explosive chorus (the version which closes the album, a more gentle take on the song, is simply dreamy). Straight away there is another highlight with the second song, “From A Window Seat”, which is reminiscent of seventies country-rock giants such as The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac and “Most People” could almost be a Jackson Browne composition, as could the gorgeous toe-tapper, “From The Right Angle”. Some of the songs are almost hymn-like, such as the gorgeous, heart-wrenching tale of lost love “Just My Luck” and the self-doubting “Something In Common”. Regardless of whether the songs are gentle and poignant, or rolling along with a fuller head-nodding country-rock beat, each track here is rich with well-crafted, appealing melodies and there is a nice mix of upbeat and introspective here. There is even a track which could easily be a mainstream radio-friendly hit, “Hey Lover” (written by an ex-band mate of Goldsmith’s, Blake Mills), complete with a sweet, catchy, sing-along chorus.
The whole album sounds rather fantastic on the first listen, but also improves on every subsequent playback and there is a timeless feel about the album which is wholly appealing. Although the production still has a very “vintage” feeling to it, there has been a minor evolution in sound and it appears that there has been a conscious effort to bring their music into the 21st Century, but it has only been a partial success. Although “Stories Don’t End” doesn’t sound in any way dated, this is definitely an album which could have been recorded and critically acclaimed at any point in the last forty-five years. After all, songs that sound this good and are this well crafted simply don’t go out of fashion.