by Erik Ritland
Hello everyone and welcome to the second in our new series New Music Fridays!
This week features Americana throwbacks Dawes, anonymous Swedish psychedelic rock band Goat, and the abrasive punk of GØGGS. Playlists of each album can be found below the review.
Thanks for reading!
Dawes – We’re All Gonna Die
Indie rock / Indie pop / 70s rock
On their 1999 masterpiece Summerteeth, Wilco progressed from their typical roots-y rock into dark, mature power pop. Similarly, We're All Gonna Die, the fifth record from Americana rock group Dawes, finds them shifting from their '70s throwback sound for indie rock and contemporary AOR.
While Summerteeth went deeper into Wilco's natural sound and influences, expanding their Americana background into a mixture of dark folk and power pop, We're All Gonna Die is less natural and more stilted. Instead of organically progressing their sound, Dawes attempts to be a trendy, smooth indie pop band. As such, they've abandoned their roots for something less, not more, interesting. The albums upbeat feel, dance-able rhythms, and myriad of synths and noises are weird for a Dawes album, but they're pretty ordinary in the context of indie rock and AOR. Trite hipster party anthem "When the Tequilla Runs Out" is made for mainstream pop radio.
And, in some sense, there's nothing wrong with that. We're All Gonna Die is filled with the sort of catchy, upbeat, dance-able songs that people today absolutely love. The problem is that it feels more like Dawes are latching onto a fad than they are progressing their sound. Where Summerteeth sounds as fresh today as it did when it was released almost 20 years ago, this albums contemporary sheen already sort of feels dated.
It would be different if the songs were stronger, but they simply aren't. They're sometimes catchy but nothing makes them overly interesting or engaging. Many call Taylor Goldsmith's lyrics "literary." I'd call them faux-losophy, whether in the many story songs that don't seem to go anywhere or outright preachy tracks like "Quitters." While the lyrics sometimes seem like they are philosophical or have depth, in actuality they're only slightly more thoughtful than typical banal pop lyrics.
I have known and respected Dawes practically since their inception. I was even at a sparsely attended show of theirs at First Avenue in Minnesota around the release of their debut LP (I'm sure you're happy for me). I know that We're All Going to Die is a meaningful statement from a band that is attempting to experiment and progress.
They'd be better off, however, continuing on their own unique path. It'd be more natural for them to move forward by incorporating different organic approaches and sounds from their Americana and 70s rock foundation. Instead they replace it with a contemporary ethos that lacks soul and feels disposable.
Psychedelic rock / Indie rock / World
The members of Swedish psychedelic rock band Goat have remained anonymous through three albums. That nobody knows the names of any members of a band in 2016 nothing short of a miracle. Sure, the Residents were able to pull off anonymity, but that was in the stone age of the 70s and 80s. Like the Residents, the mystique of Goat works in their favor, adding to their enigmatic, pagan aura.
Layers of reverb-heavy acoustic guitars, piano, and a variety of percussion create a lush atmosphere throughout Requiem. The album is heavy on fantastic grooves, ranging from hypnotic and droning (“Goatband,” “It’s Not Me”) to a Middle Eastern and Caribbean influence (“Alarms” and “Trouble in the Street” respectively). "Temple Rhythms," which sounds like a neo-pagan drum circle, is magnificent, and "Goatband" finds the psychedelic foundation of Goat on full display.
Anonymity can be a shtick, but it works when you back it up with music this good.
Punk / Garage rock / Indie rock
GØGGS are everything you’d expect from a collaboration between Ty Segall and Ex-Cult vocalist Chris Shaw: the former brings his raucous, lo-fi, garage rock aesthetic, the latter an authentic punk attitude and growl. The results are rowdy, sloppy, discordant punk rock. “Falling In” is explosive and crazy, “Shotgun Shooter” is fast and raw, and the weird noses and mind fuck ending of “Final Notice” is furious punk rock filtered through Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.