Tuesday, September 6, 2011



It’s tricky being innovative when you’re a musician. If you play it safe and stick to an already successful sound, you risk fading into the background and/or being accused of unoriginality. If you experiment with a completely radical and brand new sound, there’s a good chance your stuff won’t be heard by many. So what is there to do? Both, of course.

The number of contemporary artists whose sounds pay homage to decades past is increasing rapidly. What makes these artists stand out, however, is not how well they emulate the musicians before them, but rather how they add their own unique twist to these sounds to make them their own.

Bands like She & Him blend ‘60s girl pop with Simon & Garfunkel-esque rock and contemporary indie folk. Adele continues to reign supreme at the top of the charts with her husky and bluesy Etta James-like voice, combining elements of old school jazz with modern pop. And representing the resurgence of classic rock are Los Angeles’ very own Dawes.

(Dawes' music video for "When My Time Comes")

Since the release of their debut album North Hills in 2009, Dawes has steadily built an incredibly loyal fanbase. And rightfully so. Their amalgamation of vintage rock ‘n roll with today’s folk music results in a clever twist of contemporary Americana in the same vein as bands like Mumford & Sons or Kings of Leon.

At the forefront of this generation’s addition to the legacy of the Laurel Canyon sound, Dawes is comprised of a pair of brothers and two of their friends. Together, their lush harmonies compliment the gritty, sometimes country-tinged feel of their California sunset-tinted music.

This past June, Dawes released their fantastic sophomore album, Nothing Is Wrong to massive critical acclaim. To further enhance their classic rock cred, Dawes enlisted help from old greats such as Benmont Tench of The Heartbreakers (who also contributed to North Hills) and Jackson Browne. To do backup vocals and instrumentations. THAT is how good Dawes are. They can get veteran legends of the industry to not only ask to work with them but to not even be heavily featured.

“After two years of fine-tuning their live sound, all of the members of Dawes have become master musicians not only individually, but as a collective,” wrote Paste Magazine in their review of the record. “While many bands often succumb to the fabled ‘sophomore slump’ after an impressive debut (such as North Hills), Dawes appears to have never even heard the phrase,” they concluded.

Nothing Is Wrong came as a true musical evolution for Dawes. The band has clearly matured in the two years since North Hills. Their already evocative lyrics, for instance, have transformed into full-fledged poetry.

(Dawes performs "Time Spent In Los Angeles" on The David Letterman Show)

“But you got that special kind of sadness, you got that tragic set of charms that only comes from time spent in Los Angeles, makes me wanna wrap you in my arms,” the band croons in their lead single off of Nothing Is Wrong, “Time Spent in Los Angeles.” The song has so much vintage flavor you would swear it was an unreleased Neil Young track from his days of prime.

So if you find yourself perusing for new, smart, and emotionally charged music this fall, give Dawes a chance. I promise they’ll have your foot tapping one minute in. And if you can, be sure to catch the boys on tour now with Blitzen Trapper.

No comments: