We’re all gonna die. Deal with it.
It’s easy enough to infer a certain harshness from the title of Dawes’ fifth and latest CD, We’re All Gonna Die. But frontman/songwriter Taylor Goldsmith has said of this CD, “Pretty much every song on this record explores a difficult situation and tries to find a way to find the good in it, or at least remind yourself that it’s not always that big of a deal. After all, as scary as it is, we are all going to die.”
Read between the lines of what Goldsmith is saying there, and now it seems like the album title is much softer, more optimistic: “We’re all going to die, so why not make the best of it while we’re here.”
Dawes has been consistently upping their fan base since their 2009 debut album, North Hills.
Rising from the ashes of Malibu, California-based Simon Dawes, a band that had issued one album and toured with The Walkmen, Maroon 5, Band of Horses, Phantom Planet, and others, Dawes hit the scene armed with some of that Simon Dawes equity and the masterful storytelling of Taylor Goldsmith.
Studying at the storytelling altar of Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Lou Reed, and John Lennon, Goldsmith has proven to be an apt student. His character studies of everyday folks facing everyday challenges have frequently ventured into epic territory (“A Little Bit of Everything,” from their 2011 Nothing is Wrong CD, and “Just Beneath the Surface,” from 2013’s Stories Don’t End, are excellent examples).
Through their first four releases, which also includes 2015’s All Your Favorite Bands, Dawes—rounded out by Taylor’s brother Griffin on drums, Wylie Gelber on bass, and Lee Pardini on keys—supported Goldsmith’s stories with a sound that generally subscribed to the ’70s California Sound.
On We’re All Gonna Die, they blew that model to smithereens.
Reconvening with ex-Simon Dawes guitarist Blake Mills, now a Grammy-nominated producer (Alabama Shakes, Sara Watkins, Conor Oberst, Fiona Apple), Dawes used the studio to create an unfamiliar musical bed for Goldsmith’s familiar stories and melodies. The result is a collection of songs that sound exactly like—and nothing like—Dawes. In the lead single, “When the Tequila Runs Out,” for instance, the instrument credits say they used guitars and bass and drums, per usual, but the main sound you hear sounds nothing like any of those instruments.
We’re All Gonna Die is riddled with examples like this, where you can’t really tell for sure what instrument is making the sound that you’re hearing, making for an intriguing, discordant combination of familiar and unfamiliar from one of the finest rock bands on the scene the past few years.
And why not? If we’re all gonna die there’s every reason to feel good about pushing the envelope into places we’ve never been before.