April 30, 2018 Shakey Graves – Can’t Wake Up (Album Review)
C.S. Lewis was quoted that it may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird, but it could be a jolly sight harder for an egg to learn to fly. Of course, being an ordinary egg can start to stink, and Shakey Graves may have had this in mind when he warned his fans that they will need to hang up their suspenders for his next release. This is likely because Alejandro Rose-Garcia, aka Shakey Graves, has evolved heavily, soaring with his new album, Can’t Wake Up, which arrives May 4, 2018, via Dualtone Records.
In twelve cuts, Graves and his collaborators – Drummer Christopher Boosahda, Guitarist Patrick O’Connor, Bassist Jonathan Shaw, and honorary band member Rayland Baxter – soundly kicked away the trademark kick drum suitcase, and threw off the Americana suspenders for a new genius, an authentic birth of something new.
From the opening of “Counting Sheep” listeners are taken on a magical mystery tour. Notably influenced on this record by the genius of Harry Nilsson and The Beatles, a musical metamorphosis is happening here and brilliantly so. Taking a stance for Millennials everywhere, “Kids These Days” allows Graves really shine vocally; an artist of incredible talent is on display here with smart instrumentation. Somewhat of an acid trip, this psychedelic musical trip with lyrics talking to the ‘mirror, mirror on the wall’ ground the dream in reality.
Much like Alice and her Wonderland, this record is flush with textures tactile and cool. Sequencing is a huge element of this album and tempo and pacing is a living character, but it is definitely not fucking up contrary to the lyrics of “Climb On the Cross.” With its easy stroll, this song is remarkable. Raw, vulnerable, and pleading vocals could have listeners wondering more about the story behind this song or it becomes instantly relatable. Moving to “Dining Alone,” it feels like Harry Nilsson was in the room, a ghostwriter or a fly on the wall. No one is dining alone here, folks!
Nearly halfway through the LSD-esque odyssey, “My Neighbour” is a sarcastic, ethereal reverberation, brief and to-the-point that takes experiencing it to fully appreciate; for that matter, like dream explanations do not do the colors, sights, and sounds justice. Feeling almost traditional Shakey Graves, “Excuses” is a satisfying Pink Floyd-esque Rock flashback, and we stay in this time-capsule with “Cops and Robbers,” as The Beatles ooze from the essence of the track. You can steal the essence of greatness, and Graves got his wish from the Wizard of Oz for sure.
The single “Mansion Door” first exposed an expansive new sound for Alejandro Rose-Garcia, aka Shakey Graves, in April. Elements of the artist that was, and who he has become, can be heard here. A dream-like bit of The Beatles influences here and it is fantastic! Genius strikes like a stalker with “Aibohphobia” and it’s a palindrome. Thus begins the descent into a creepy-cool nightmare, which is followed by “Big Bad Wolf” where every Disney villain comes knocking; haunting yet simple musically, Rose-Garcia admittedly was influenced by Snow White, Pinocchio, Bambi, Dumbo, and Fantasia and listeners can sense the cinematic here.
Wandering towards the end of this collection, “Backseat Driver” is a quick hit that gives Patrick O’Connor’s guitar a moment to really shine above the rest of the gems. Meanwhile, stalkers unite at the “Foot Of Your Bed,” where stunning, childlike musical choices – harps and plodding bass lines – are certain to cause a freakout. Holy hell! Freddy Krueger is definitely adding this to a mood music playlist. Finally, “Tin Man” takes everything back to that Wizard of Oz metaphor, every dream is not a reality. A happy trip with no flying monkeys, but the dreams can be paralyzing nonetheless.
So who is Alejandro Rose-Garcia? Is he simply Shakey Graves – the alter ego of a man who started a musical buzz in 2013 with his one-man-band – or is he the complex, sonic wizard of musical prose whose evolution, sophomore release Can’t Wake Up, is nothing short of mind-blowing? Smashing the egg and jumping off a ledge to soar, Shakey Graves is hopping off to Wonderland and there is no real reason to wake up. Just enjoy the trip! Along for the ride, CrypticRock give Shakey Graves’ Can’t Wake Up 5 out of 5 stars.