Folk rockers release one of spring’s purest albums

“Stories Don’t End” earns 3.5 out of five stars.

Mack Hayden, Writer

Sonic purity will never have as much street cred as some degree of distortion. The bands that tend to be the most hip to namecheck usually happen to have a cynical bite to their lyrics or a crunch to their guitars. High schoolers are sure to mention their parents’ affinity for The Clash or Violent Femmes among their pretentious peerage, but probably a little less inclined to reference said parents’ greater appreciation for Jackson Browne or Jimmy Buffett. So it gets you to thinking what bands our own kids will be name dropping as parental favorites and which may be kept in closets. Dawes’ latest, “Stories Don’t End” perplexes with its ability to toe the line between cool and comfortable.


They were never really upstarts or rebels, just young men with something to say. And they say it right from the start. “Just Beneath the Surface” chugs forward like an old time steam train while lead singer and songwriter, Taylor Goldsmith, spills out his soul, multicolored and bare. “Just beneath the surface, there’s another one of me / At the root of all my trouble, in the twitch before I speak / With thoughts and revelations even I could not accept / So just beneath the surface is where he will stay kept.” It’s this honest poetry of clarity that really sets Dawes apart. They’re a band aware of how disparate of motive the human soul can be yet sing about these dashing feelings with the utmost clearness.

Leadoff single “From a Window Seat” has one of the bounciest piano hooks in recent years. If you haven’t picked up already, now’s the time when you should realize how old the souls of the bandmates must really be. Here’s a song that could gain as many listeners on KROQ as on KLOS, on our computers as our parents’ record players. They’re rootsy and golden but they still aren’t archaeologists. They aren’t digging up as many sounds from the past as they can then throwing them together all hodgepodge and disordered. They carry on the sound of the past like sons of stalwart fathers, knowing their own identity while carrying on dad’s legacy through action and initiative.

“Most People,” “Hey Lover” and “From the Right Angle” are the barnstormers of the track list. Like Creedence Clearwater Revival, they have their moments of quiet Americana but they raise the stakes with upbeat, fireworks numbers such as these. On the whole though, the record has more in common with their quiet debut, “North Hill,” than the accomplished and rocky “Nothing is Wrong.” When it came to that record, nothing was. “Stories Don’t End” has moments where it gets a little too living room, but they’re far from selling out.


Goldsmith’s lyrics are among the best in modern music. You won’t find anything aggressive, political or existential here, but most of us don’t occupy a philosopher’s territory with our minds all the time anyway. His strength lies in raining words of simplicity to describe the honey-inflected sweetness and burnt-coffee bitterness of life. He’s proof honesty doesn’t have to be pessimism. His are the kind of lyrics you feel re-energized from listening to.

“Stories Don’t End” is proof their own narrative as a band is just beginning. Third albums are really the final test for a band’s relevancy and staying power. Debuts seem like tattered jean teenagers appealing for their idealism or rejected for their arrogance and lack of talent. Sophomore releases tend to slump or repeat the first record’s formula since bands know this is their one chance to sound exactly how they once did without the need to apologize. The third record is young adults after college, starting to make their way in the world. All that “finding yourself” better be out of the way, because now’s the time to know what you want and make a statement about it. And they certainly did. It’s the kind of statement you don’t need to think is cool. Those ones are always more lasting anyway.

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