REVIEW: Dawes’ “Passwords” is Deep Social Commentary Over Compelling Music


Dawes’ Passwords (HUB Records) was produced by Jonathan Wilson (Lucinda Williams, Shooter Jennings).  This album veered more toward indie/pop production styles than their previous albums, while lyrically it covered some of the heaviest landscapes of the human heart.   Rhythm section Wylie Gelber and Griffin Goldsmith maintain a deeply solid low end; while Dawes, Trevor Menear and Taylor Goldsmith trade off on guitarwork, with Lee Pardini on keys.  There are multiple string arrangements here too.

With Taylor Goldsmith’s vocals bouncing light as a feather over the heaviest rock intro you can imagine, he addresses modern paranoia and “I know all of my exits, I’m always planning my escape,” in the opener “Living in the Future.” “I’m always looking over my shoulder, not knowing what I’m looking for,” is both literally relevant (in this era of constant surveillance, and more macabre, mass shootings) and figuratively. “Time Flies Either Way” is another modern commentary with “I confused a sense of purpose with grabbing the future by the throat.”

“Telescope” is the gripping heart of the album, where a ten year old boy’s father leaves the family; “his mother made excuses.. the stronger the telescope, the more stars there are…” and “rumors” abound about the “deadbeat Dad.” And he had so many questions, like “how a father so drunk on his own destiny could end up like this instead?” The drumming on this is standout with the discrete kicks.

“Crack the Case:” “I will do your interview … give you something to read into. A game we thought we had all outgrown but we play it anyway. Ignoring all the remedies… I want to sit with my enemies, and say we should have done this sooner while I look them in the face. Maybe they will crack the case.” Dawes takes on dichotomies and the fact that for each time we stand on righteous ground, we ourselves could have been guilty of being the offending party in another set of circumstances — sage observations.

“I Can’t Love You” (anymore) is another exercise in semantics as it begins as perhaps a breakup song, until we realize he can’t love her any “more” because he’s ultimately completely in love and more isn’t possible.

Much of the album hits heavy musically, but not all of the songs stay that way. Some of the music is more 70’s Steely Dan style with its sustained keyboards, high vocal choruses and rhythm style — songs like “Feed the Fire” and “Mistakes We Should Have Made.”  Check it out, here:

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