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Easy Street Online review by Ian Bremner
If you let fan comments on Facebook influence your thinking, which as a general rule of thumb, you should DEFINITELY NOT DO, you will think the new Dawes album, We’re All Gonna Die, is either pure perfection or the worst crime to music possibly committed. In today’s social media climate, sports and politics aren’t the only arenas where the word “fan” is nearly synonymous with “irrational” and “kneejerk.”
In reality, We're All Gonna Die is neither perfection, nor crime worthy. It IS, however, difficult to define and significantly different than anything Dawes has ever done. “Different” for a band means change, and we all know how people react to change. Fans are drawn to Dawes for many reasons. Some of the most vivid songwriting imaginable, California sunsets, sweeping guitars and nostalgia for the dusty Laurel Canyon days of the '70s are all peak Dawes.
We’re All Gonna Die has traces of all of these characteristics, but dives into something entirely new. Chunky basslines, pop choruses, spacey soundscapes, make for a new type of listening environment. When their fourth record, All Your Favorite Bands, came out, front man and songwriter Taylor Goldsmith pointed to wanting to get back to their live-band roots and giving a more live sound. It was heavy on ballads and guitar solos, which is straight out of a Dawes show. The new album is more of a headphone record. The songwriting still stands with the best of Dawes, when displayed with just Taylor and his guitar, but it seems as though the lyrics are not the main attraction anymore. They are still poignant and heavy, but Wylie Gelber’s bass, for example, is at the forefront in some songs, which would never have been the case in the past.
At one point Goldsmith and Blake Mills were bandmates in Simon Dawes, but that was before they went their separate routes and Mills became super-grammy-winning-producer for Alabama Shakes, Jim James and countless other bands. Mills and Goldsmith have collaborated on multiple projects over the years, but We're All Gonna Die is produced entirely by Mills.
Despite the mix of sounds, the album is cohesive and all fits together. When lead single, "When The Tequila Runs Out" dropped, people were up in arms about the direction of the band. The song probably is a good representation for the album. The fun part about a band like Dawes, who are on their way to legendary status, is that we can look back on the catalog when it’s all said and done and find out if We're All Gonna Die is a one-off in the discography or turning point where “Dawes” became Dawes.
Dawes has toured extensively playing headline shows worldwide and major festival appearances including Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, Lollapalooza and Newport Folk Festival. Recently, they have toured with My Morning Jacket, Bob Dylan, Mumford and Sons, Conor Oberst, and Jackson Browne. In the fall of 2014, Goldsmith contributed to Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes, an album project which found collaborators Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons) and producer T Bone Burnett writing and creating music for a treasure trove of recently discovered lyrics handwritten by Bob Dylan in 1967 during the period that generated the recording of the legendary Basement Tapes. Fellow collaborator Jim James proclaims about We’re All Gonna Die, “The record sounds so fresh—yet fills me with a strange nostalgia for things that haven't happened yet...I hear it at the beach and blasting out of car windows on future summer nights...easily having become a natural part of people's lives.”