Hub, 2018

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Dawes has been knocking around the indie folk rock scene for about a decade now, never really breaking through, but displaying a keen eye for detail and a poetic sensibility that is rarely saccharine. Unfortunately, at least on their sixth album Passwords, the focus on lyrics means the music is rarely memorable.

When it comes together, the results are striking. The sunset-tinged California accents of “Crack The Case” are soothing, set to lyrics that seek to find what we have in common rather than what divides us. Better still is the single “Feed The Fire,” a soft-rock mashup of Boz Scaggs and my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Rumours that gets under the skin and stays there. Taylor Goldsmith’s vocals are on point, a rumination on fame and one’s place in the world, and there’s even a country-rock guitar solo to boot. To be honest, this is the song that made me seek out the album, and it’s the one I come back to more than any other.

Many of the songs float by like a sunset breeze, not really making an impact, but pleasant and philosophical as they play. The R&B-tinged “My Greatest Invention” fits this category, Goldsmith’s voice effortlessly slipping into a falsetto, while “Stay Down,” “Telescope,” and the dreamy “I Can’t Love” are all fine in context but don’t leave a mark when they end.

At worst, portions of the album recall specific AOR-soft rock of days gone by, such as the Don Henley-isms of “Mistakes We Should Have Made” and a Gerry Rafferty vibe on “Telescope,” which is not unpleasant, but also distracting when not folded into a better song. However, the languid, confident closer “Time Flies Either Way” uses sparing saxophone, a piano and soulful vocals to tell its story. It’s a smoky delight.

Passwords feels like it could often be more than it is. If the album rarely lives up to “Feed The Fire” or the grit of the better songs on We’re All Gonna Die (the band’s country-tinged 2016 effort), it’s still a pleasant way to spend some time, particularly for listeners of a certain age for whom this music will recall a specific time in their lives.

Rating: C+

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