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Dawes showing its best, or whatever

The folk-rock band’s newest album is a contender for their best work to date

<p>Dawes lead vocalist Taylor Goldsmith flexes his poetic muscles in "Good Luck With Whatever"</p>

Dawes lead vocalist Taylor Goldsmith flexes his poetic muscles in "Good Luck With Whatever"

Dawes — a California-based folk-rock band — has spent the last decade making a name for themselves with heavy, melancholy lyrics and a beautiful blend of acoustic and electric instrumentalism. Their simply-produced style is reminiscent of the best soft rock the 60s and 70s had to offer, and their seventh studio album stays true to form. Overflowing with themes of nostalgia, maturity, stagnance and moving on, “Good Luck with Whatever” makes a case for being Dawes’ best album to date.

The album opens with a rare glimpse into Dawes’ history as a rock band with “Still Feel Like a Kid.” The song grapples with the struggle of growing up without feeling the maturity that is expected with time, all layered over a strong bassline and electric guitar. The references to earlier bedtimes, paying rent and memories of ice-cream-truck music feel slightly heavy-handed from lead singer Taylor Goldsmith, who has built a career around his mature and insightful lyrics with Dawes, Middle Brother and folk-rock supergroup The New Basement Tapes. Regardless of the tremendous life experience of Goldsmith, it’s hard not to relate to the nostalgia for youth the chorus of “Still Feel Like a Kid” evokes.

The titular track of the album, “Good Luck with Whatever” introduces another common theme of the album — moving on. “Didn’t Fix Me,” “Free as We Wanna Be” and the album’s single “Who Do You Think You’re Talking To?” all dive into the pains that come at the end of a relationship. All four songs approach the theme in the classic Dawes way with beautiful, aching piano and slow basslines setting the stage for poetic, heartfelt lyrics. “Good luck with whatever / whatever awaits” followed two lines later by “Good luck with whatever / I really don’t care” walks the line between wishing someone the best and complete ambivalence, beautifully capturing the internal turmoil that often accompanies growth. 

The middle of the album takes a deep dive into resignation to the challenges of life. “None of My Business” and “St. Augustine at Night” are ballads reminiscent of one of Dawes’ biggest hits, “Things Happen,” and are all about the natural ups and downs people face, and the emotional toll they often take. “I never had much say in how I’ve felt” is a line buried in “St. Augustine at Night” that feels like a mantra in Goldsmith’s writing. It conveys emotional experience just as much as raw emotion. The indifference to the choices the narrator makes in “None of My Business” leave the listener with the resigned feeling of someone taking one step at a time and trying their best to move forward, a lingering feeling that ties beautifully back into their focus on moving on.

While “Good Luck with Whatever” is the titular track to the album, the album’s third track, “Between the Zero and the One,” best conveys both the spirit of the album and the decade long career of Dawes. “Between the Zero and the One” is an existential track about being stuck on a journey rather than reaching a final goal. The album is just that, toeing the line between folk and rock, youthful and mature, melancholy and hopeful. As a band, Dawes struggles with the exact same thing. “Good Luck with Whatever” is already Dawes most well received album, debuting at number 24 on the Billboard. They have flirted with commercial success their entire career, but have yet to be a mainstay on the charts. This album could finally take them from the zero to the one.

“Good Luck with Whatever” is a terrific reminder of why Dawes is a staple in so many folk and rock playlists. It captures the poetic talent of Goldsmith and raw musical talent of his bandmates. With beautiful lyrics tackling tough themes, subtle acoustic instrumentation with a spattering of exciting electric guitar riffs and nine thoughtful, relatable songs, “Good Luck with Whatever” is the perfect representation of a band that's moving on and growing up.

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