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 leaving behind their '70s throwback sound for indie rock and contemporary AOR.
And therein lies the problem, creatively at least. Where Summerteeth went deeper into Wilco's natural sound and influences- expanding their background in Americana into a varied mix of dark folk and power pop - Die is fairly straightforward in its approach and structure. Its upbeat feel, dance-able rhythms, and myriad of synths and noises are weird for a Dawes album but pretty ordinary in the context of indie rock and AOR. Heck, trite hipster party anthem (we really needed one of those!) "When the Tequilla Runs Out" is made for mainstream pop radio.
And there's nothing wrong with that, really. Die is filled with the sort of catchy, upbeat, dance-able songs that people today absolutely love. It's possibly the best hipster party album of all time, even if it is perhaps (thankfully) the only one.
The problem with this move is that Dawes are latching onto a fad. Where Summerteeth sounds as fresh today as it did when it was released almost 20 years ago, the contemporary sheen of Die already sort of feels dated.
It would maybe be different if the songs were stronger, but they simply aren't. They're catchy but nothing makes them interesting or engaging. Many are calling 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." Their faux-losophical quality gives the impression that they are philosophical or have depth when, in actuality, they're simply 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 foundation. Instead they replace it with a contemporary ethos that lacks soul and feels disposable.
Psychedelic rock / Indie rock / World
Swedish psychedelic rock band Goat have somehow kept their anonymity through three albums. How nobody knows who any members of an entire band are in 2016 is a strange miracle. Sure, the Residents were able to pull it off, 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.
The lush, expansive soundscapes of Requiem are filled with layers of reverb-heavy acoustic guitars, piano, and a wide variety of percussion. The album is heavy on fantastic grooves, ranging from hypnotic and droning (“Goatband,” “It’s Not Me”) to sounding like a neo-pagan drum circle (the magnificent “Temple Rhythms”) to Middle Eastern and Caribbean (“Alarms” and “Trouble in the Street” respectively). At its foundation Requiem is a psychedelic rock album, as tracks like “Goatband” – which could have been a recently discovered hazy, late night jam session at the Fillmore by Santana or Quicksilver Messenger Service in 1969 – prove.
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. Their debut album is rowdy, sloppy, discordant punk rock at its best. “Falling In” is explosive and crazy, “Shotgun Shooter” 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.