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21 September 2011 @ 09:32 pm
Bp's Song of the Week #130: Dawes "Time Spent in Los Angeles"  
When I first listened to the Dawes debut album, North Hills (2009), I was immediately reminded of the feel of The Thorns (Matthew Sweet, Shawn Mullins, and Pete Droge’s side project that came out in 2003), not that it sounded exactly like that band, but I thought the vibe and harmonies were similar. There were some interesting moments, but as a whole the album didn’t resonate in a big way. For those who need a label it was in the Americana, rootsy folk rock type of feel. Hailing for Northern California they get lumped into the Jackson Browne category and sound a bit like Neil Young, but with a voice that’s more tolerable to my ears.

Remembering that vibe though, I was interested in hearing their new album, Nothing Is Wrong, when it came out earlier this summer. While I thought it was an improved effort, with not only moments, but some full songs that captured my attention this time, it wasn’t an instant love. I hadn’t revisited it since its initial couple of spins a few months ago. About a month ago when I was organizing my stacks and piles of CDs at home, I felt a need to hear it again and filed it on the ‘continued listening’ shelf where it has stayed since. Fast forward a couple weeks when I heard an irresistibly catchy song during a break in meetings at our national convention two weeks ago. I scribbled down the lyrics “you got that special kind of sadness…wrap you in my arms” in my notes to google later. I knew I’d heard the song before, but I just couldn’t place where. I knew I wanted to hear it again though. When I looked it up, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was Dawes. I went to the ‘continued listening’ shelf, picked up Nothing Is Wrong and brought it to work last week. It’s been in a daily spin for me since.

Cause you got that special kind of sadness
You got that tragic set of charms
That only comes from time spent in Los Angeles
Makes me wanna wrap you in my arms

Dawes “Time Spent in Los Angeles”

The closest I’ve been to LA is setting foot on the tarmac in Burbank a few years ago, but that doesn’t matter. It’s a song with a specific location in the chorus, but LA can be anyone’s city in this case. It’s more about the kinship, then the specific locale. And for me personally, it’s more about the whirling organ, the vocal harmonies, the spacious guitar, the earnest vocal, the honesty of the lyric, and the vibe. It’s a wonderfully crafted song that sticks with you once you let it in the door just a little. The vocal break near the end – they know all the tricks to hook me.

And the whole album has hooked me. I can’t stop spinning it and while it’s not intricate prog rock, there are things and sounds, melodies that keep catching my ear on every listen. I love that! It’s a continual discovery. Their debut is also growing quickly on me as well. That’s why I never get rid of CDs, even if the initial listens don’t grab me, I never know when the magic will reveal itself!

I can’t think of a band who I’ve listened to recently that I’ve picked up lyrics from so many different songs that I really loved. There are so many passages that really either connected with me or that I just really loved the imagery of. Here’s a selection:

“When it hits me that she’s gone I think I’ll run for President, get my face put on the million dollar bill, so when these rich men that she wants show her ways they can take care of her, I’ll have found a way to be there with her still…”
“When it hits me that she’s gone I think I’ll be an astronaut, make the moon my home and leave the Earth behind, so when she steps out into the night and finds the light that makes her prettiest, she’ll be facing me every time she shines…”

(Million Dollar Bill)

“Cause some people were just meant to be a memory, to be called upon to remind us how we’ve changed”
“So tell me why you think I should forgive what you did, and I’ll tell you if I understand, cause you broke the quick giving heart of a kid, and you’re now coming back to a man”

(Coming Back to a Man)

“So if you finally wrote that heartbreak song, that the experts never could, or if you just wanted someone to listen to you play, then fire away...” (Fire Away)

“I am an old, old sailor, with a future much shorter than his past, I live alone I do not wander, a world that just slips further from my grasp, from my home I watch the people, struggle through the burden of each day, and that’s Marie, sweet and gentle, smiles to me when she passes on her way, and she does it so well, she pulls me out of time’s cruel spell, for long enough to finally tell, that nothing is wrong…”
(So Well)

“Somewhere a pretty girl is writing invitations to a wedding she has scheduled for the fall, her man says ‘Baby, can I make an observation, you don’t seem to be having any fun at all.’ She said, ‘You just worry about your groomsmen and your shirt size, and rest assured that this is making me feel good. I think that love is so much easier than you realize. If you can give yourself to someone, then you should. Cause it’s a little bit of everything, the way you joke the way you ache, it is getting up before you so I could watch you as you wake, so on that day in late September, it’s not some stupid little ring, I’m getting a little bit of everything.’”
(A Little Bit of Everything)

Jumping back to “Time Spent in Los Angeles” - Generally speaking I get into live versions of song more than studio versions. But there are some studio versions that you become so attached to that you’re almost worried about hearing a live version because there’s a certain vibe, energy, and production that you don’t think will be replicated. This was one of those songs, but I was pleasantly surprised and for the most part that was captured in this performance from Letterman. The praise from Paul Shaffer at the end is pretty nice to hear as well.
“Time Spent in Los Angeles” Live on Letterman: here.

More Dawes:
If I Wanted Someone (live acoustic) – no mics, awesome harmonies
If I Wanted Someone (studio) – if you like the above stripped down, check out the studio, with some sizzling guitar and wonderful organ accents
When My Time Comes (live Craig Ferguson) – great cut from their first album “you can judge the whole world on the sparkle that you think it lacks”
Million Dollar Bill
Live on World Café-NPR
A Little Bit of Everything (live)