Having been a fan of Chris Carrabba’s vehicle Dashboard Confessional since way back in the Swiss Army Romance days, my curiosity was more than piqued to check out his latest full-length effort Dusk And Summer; his first since 2003’s flawed but promising A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar. As with the vein established on A Mark, A Mission; Dashboard continues full steam ahead with the full-band sound they tried out to mediocre enough effect there. I’m happy to report that, on Dusk And Summer, Carrabba sounds more like he did on the fantastic Spider-Man 2 soundtrack piece “Vindicated,” as opposed to his still-getting-his-feet-wet feel of A Mark, A Mission.
I more than anyone am a stalwart for the old days of fully acoustic guitar based Dashboard Confessional records. All through his career, the style of Carrabba’s songs seemed fully intended, and most at home, on nothing more than an acoustic guitar. The simplicity and raw musicality just seemed like the only thing that could do them the right kind of justice; a simple medium for simple songs. But, on Dusk And Summer, a new Dashboard Confessional is to be found.
Over the three years since the release of the stumbling A Mark, A Mission, Carrabba has put together a stellar backing band, and has most importantly honed his abilities to write songs that can be fully, and best, realized with complete instrumentation. Coming from a mostly acoustic singer-songwriter, this is a remarkably realized full band effort; and turns out to be just as enjoyable, if not more enjoyable, than his older acoustic work.
This is the first record that truly stands as a testament that Chris Carrabba really is a talented musician and songwriter, as opposed to just that good looking emo poster boy that was the butt of jokes, and presumed to be enjoyed by only whiny, teenage kids looking for attention. Look no further than the fact that, on the track “So Long, So Long,” Carrabba shares the mic with none other than the Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz to see how far he has come from his emo niche days. If one of the most talented, respected songwriters in music today is willing to work with you, you’ve got to be doing something right. A hint of a more electric incarnation of the ‘Crows can even be felt to some degrees on this record, with the songwriting finally growing into the maturity that you always knew was there, but just below the surface.
As far as highlights go, the first single “Don’t Wait” gives a fairly superficial representation of what’s to be found here. Mid-to-up-tempo songs about the usual Dashboard fare of broken hearts and such, albeit with a bit more maturity. Interspersed among those you’ll find masterworks such as the aforementioned Duritz duet “So Long, So Long,” and the near-heart breaking acoustic title track ballad “Dusk And Summer.” It seems so that, with Dusk And Summer, Dashboard Confessional has found a title that turns out to be quite prophetic. The end of the day has come for the emo poster boy, and the new season is dawning for the respected, immensely talented songwriter that has been hiding in the dust there all along.
Hatchie – Keepsake
Keepsake, the debut album by Brisbane dream pop artist Hatchie is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars
Brisbane indie-pop artist Hatchie (known to her friends and family as Harriette Pilbeam) is in the envious position of being a pop artist unspoiled by the many trappings of what it is to be a modern pop artist. Unlike some of her contemporaries who craft music by committee or with Sheeran-like self-importance, Hatchie is as of now, unsullied by the pressures of the cookie-cutter pop machine. Hatchie’s debut full length is a showcase for a talent who is supremely confident and composed in her abilities, and Keepsake is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars. The album is also a wonderful throwback to pop’s dreamy 60s influences that shuffle in and out of this delirium while working alongside distinctly more current musical touches.
There is the lush dream pop sounds of “Without a Blush”, taking cues from the best of what Stars and Goldfrapp conjure but heaping a tonne of Pilbeam’s charisma on it. Like her vocals, “Without a Blush” has this elegance that has the ability to elevate songs from being beautiful to grand. It is the kind of vocal elegance that really shines through on songs like the skittering, beat-driven “Obsessed” and the alternative, guitar-fuelled (yay!) “When I Get Out”. Indie/electronic closer “Keep” is a wonderful end to proceedings.
However, the great strength of Keepsake is not just its composure in how all the songs have been put together. It is also this genuine, natural-sounding quality that permeates the album- nothing overly written, overly produced or put together by research groups or music analysts. It just sounds like talent. We can argue that much of pop music is constructed to appease the moment- designed to grab as much attention as possible in an A.D.D. world. And sure, that can be said about almost any kind of music, but the resulting aural tone of Keepsake is anything but transient or transparent.
The best way to combat tepid chart-topping music is to write better pop songs. Songs like “Her Own Heart” and the disco-toned “Stay” are examples of pop music that come across as timeless. We are moved by the songs found on Keepsake when we listen to them today. And I suspect that in 10 years time, or in 20, we will most likely feel the same. It is rare to find the sort of ageless beauty you find on Keepsake.