Sometimes the end of one story ushers in the beginnings of something bigger. In 2009, Los Angeles, California’s Dawes rose from the ashes of Post Punk band Simon Dawes. Formed after the departure of Co-Songwriter Blake Mills, the door was open for a new musical venture for brothers Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith. Gracefully rising in ranks, the Folk Rock outfit Dawes – made up of Taylor (guitar, vocals), Griffin (drums), Wylie Gelber (bass guitar), and Lee Pardini (keyboards) – look to make their biggest impact yet with 2016’s We’re All Gonna Die.
Drawing inspiration from time-tested vibes popular when music really pushed the envelope beginning in the 1960s, Dawes attained commercial success with 2013’s Stories Don’t End and 2015’s All Your Favorite Bands. Quickly following up, released on September 16, 2016, We’re All Gonna Die features a new vision for the band, one that simultaneously plays around with new ideas and reaches back to earlier sounds of the band. Interestingly, Mills joined in on the new project as the producer, and surprisingly, the band used Apple’s GarageBand program to lay down the groundwork for the album.
Ten tracks in total, “One Of Us” begins it all with slightly warped and weighty bass tones. Contrasting with the beat, lighter vocals come in to create an interesting dynamic. In similar fashion, the lyrics only add further to the contradistinction with, “You look like one of them, but you talk like one of us.” Next, title track “We’re All Gonna Die” features dramatic effects alongside gentle vocals in the intro. Quite a simple track, the vocals create much of the detail at first. Understated, the song is much more subtly complex than initially presented, and is not the dooming message it may seem.
Keeping the mood upbeat, “Roll with the Punches” comes in with rough guitars, high vocals, and easy guitar strumming. Highly reminiscent of many popular musical styles through the ’60s and ’70s, there is also a touch of ’90s styling. Following multiple characters through, the lyrics speak on pivotal moments in each subject’s life. Then, “Picture of a Man” continues the story-telling flavor, all while a church-like organ adds to the drama. From there, choir-like vocals jump in and small sound effects add moodiness while keeping the focus primarily on the songwriter’s words. Thereafter, “Less than Five Miles” begins with a ’70s style beat with Folk spices thrown in. Dynamic, the beat slowly builds up with intriguing singing, creating a sense of waking up.
Slowing the mood down some with gentle piano and reflective vocals, “Roll Tide” is complemented by a chorus that adds a dab of hope to the instrumental. It is as if to reassure that the sleepy advice is not easy to follow, but worth the fight. The energy is brought back up with “When the Tequila Runs Out,” where gritty guitar and lightweight ringing sound effects mixed in with a ’70s Psychedelic fluidity. A filled out piece of music, the song feels like a clip out of a small, close-knit group of young people putting aside the seriousness of life and living for today.
Pulling a slight Country vibe, “For No Good Reason” is a song with some understated twanging. This is before an exploration into the minds of a few of the people on the track “Quitter.” Here, the lyrics play with the idea that people are the way they are because they are, thus serving as an admonishment of living a life ruled by objects and ideas that do not matter. Finally, “As If By Design” rounds the album out with a sharp piano piece and upbeat drums. The song can be viewed as an observation on life where the instruments serve as illustrative strings supporting puppets acting out scenes.
Quite an enjoyable listen, We’re All Gonna Die is a new experimentation mixed in with the band’s early roots beautifully. That in mind, listeners should give this album more than one play to truly pick up on the subtle nuances featured throughout. Regardless of the different sounds and tones featured on We’re All Gonna Die, Dawes continues their tradition of making an album seem simple and understating, while in reality, the album is anything but that. CrypticRock give this album 5 out of 5 stars.