Stories Don’t End
It’s gotten to the point where all of the new-millennium folk rockers are hard to tell apart. Who has time to sift through the small differences that separate the Low Anthem from Fleet Foxes from Blitzen Trapper from Middle Brother (a side project formed by members of Dawes, Deer Tick, and Delta Spirit, who all belong here too)? Any one of these bands pretty much fits all of your new-millennium folk-rock needs. They all sound like they’d be right at home snorting coke off a bearskin rug in some Laurel Canyon cabin circa 1975. And they all sound like the past 30-plus years of music passed them by.
Dawes frontman Taylor Goldsmith even pals around with Jackson Browne (who showed up on their second album), giving his Los Angeles-based band a leg up over their peers. But Goldsmith isn’t too fond of the retro label, so he packed his band, headed to North Carolina, and enlisted producer Jacquire King–who’s worked with Kings of Leon, Norah Jones, and Tom Waits–to catapult Dawes into the future … or at least into the early ‘80s.
But Kings of Leon, Norah Jones, and even Tom Waits these days aren’t exactly on the cutting edge of new music. And Stories Don’t End isn’t exactly a big leap forward for Dawes. In fact, the warm smell of weed and the laid-back vibe of pre-Reagan tranquility permeate the record. There’s nothing urgent, groundbreaking, or remotely exciting about it.
If anything, King’s stifled production gives Stories Don’t End a stale aftertaste. He mutes rather than warms the band’s cozy tones and rarely encourages Dawes to stray outside of their comfort zone. The opening track, “Just Beneath The Surface,” sounds so much like one of Browne’s forgettable songs from Lawyers In Love that it too becomes instantly forgettable. Things don’t pick up much from there. “From A Window Seat” coasts along a shuffling rhythm that recalls Laurel Canyon’s definition of “funky,” “Someone Will” is all finger-picking acoustic blandness, and the title track makes five minutes seem like 15.
Stories Don’t End picks up the pace a couple of times, most notably in the piercing guitar riff that stabs throughout the otherwise blah “Most People” and in “From The Right Angle,” which features rolling organ, pathfinder piano, and Goldsmith’s snuggest, most soulful vocal. But Laurel Canyon soul is a relative and rare thing. Finding it in Dawes’ nostalgia trip is even rarer.