Album Review: Dawes - Stories Don't End

by Jim McGuinn

Dawes - Stories Don't End
Dawes - Stories Don't End (Album art)

Contribute today and get Stories Don't End by Dawes as a thank-you gift.

It's easy to imagine Taylor Goldsmith, the lead singer and writer in Dawes, sitting quietly in a coffee shop somewhere in Los Angeles, filling notebooks with observations of the people he sees while nursing a coffee black. A writer with a gift for simile, Goldsmith's like a squirrel outside your window looking in at a dish of nuts on the coffee table—at first the lines might seem corny or overwrought, but after a few spins the deeper questions sink in—for an LA guy, dude is troubled and conflicted about a lot. And a clever lyricist. Yet even as their fanbase multiplies, the guys in Dawes remain some of the humblest and nicest in rock - lugging their own gear up and down the stairs at their recent session, and with the ruffled and unassuming look one expects more from a Minnesota band than guys raised within miles of the surf.

As we've seen from earlier songs like "A Little Bit Of Everything," Dawes are not afraid to lay it on thick to find the emotions that resonate, and with Stories Don't End seem to have made a conscious decision to put Goldsmith's words front and center. While Dawes live on stage can stretch their songs into jams showcasing the stellar musicianship and interplay between the 4 members, on this album they've opted for more concise treatments. Less the jangly and langourous alt-country sound of debut North Hills, on Stories Don't End the playing is taunt and muscular, honing in on Goldsmith's verbal gymnastics and pleasing voice that sometimes sounds eerily like friend and mentor Jackson Browne. In fact, more so than nearly any band of the last decade, Dawes have gotten their props as keepers of the flame from heroes of the singer-songwriter generation. Besides playing alongside Browne at Occupy Wall Street gigs (echoing Browne's No Nukes activism of a three decades ago), Dawes were chosen by The Band's Robbie Robertson to back him, and are hitting the road opening for Bob Dylan this spring.

Just as the titular phrase "stories don't end" implies an infinite loop, the album opens and closes with two versions of "Just Beneath the Surface," which takes different perspectives of a relationship that may or may not have crumbled, be about a lover, or Dawes' fans, the different versions Taylor sees of himself, or of all of us. Aiming for personal and universal can be tricky wordsmithing, but when he sings "the music never stops" one hopes that's true. With three albums in less than four years, Dawes have been prolific. They've also made Minnesota their home away from home—with their biggest crowds and most fervent fans in the country. Given the amount of time they spend in our 'hoods, don't be surprised if you find Taylor Goldsmith sitting in your coffee shop jotting in his notebooks. Buy him that coffee black, then let him keep writing.

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