They may have a name which can cause unutterably tedious confusion ("who are you listening to?" "Dawes." "The Doors?" etc.), but over the course of their two previous albums, Los Angeles' Dawes have carved out a reputation as being the finest modern classic rock song writers of the current crop of 'retro' aping bands presently doing the rounds. Having recently opened for the farmers' favourites Mumford and Sons, Dawes return with their third album, Stories Don't End, and it might just be their finest collection of songs yet.
The album begins with the subdued Just Beneath the Surface before the curtain falls on the much more lively and upbeat single From a Window Seat; a jaunty ode to travelling which probably would not have sounded out of place on a Supertramp album. Make no mistake about it, From A Window Seat is not only the best song on the album, but also perhaps the finest moment of their oeuvre so far. The instruments take centre stage, with the bongo drums getting dusted off, tasteful guitar fills and thoughtful lyrics such as "if you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there."
Stories Don't End is a massively diverse album in terms of tone. While sticking largely to an Americana inspired sound, Dawes dabble in slow, sparse, self-deprecating blues with Just My Luck, add in elements of folk on the largely acoustic Someone Will and the huge, major key pop rock of Hey Lover. Despite being a collection of fantastic songs, it is on the slower, more quiet numbers where Stories Don't End falls down, suffering from a poor engineering job. Songs like Just My Luck and Something In Common are ruined by moments where the bass drum peaks and crackles in the speakers, sometimes even farting along to a whole verse. Dawes have gone for an airy, live sound which has its pitfalls, these imperfections being one of them.
On the louder tracks, however, it is easier to hide these distractions, such as on the euphoric Most People, with its glorious sunshine hooks, and interesting in the round vocal delivery in the coda. From The Right Angle is another huge, hooky song which will sound great live with its layers of guitars taking centre stage.
This might just be the best collection of songs Dawes have put together in one sitting up to this point. They continue to be a band that satisfies in spite of doing very much as it says on the tin. It is a shame that the mixing on this album sometimes lets it down, but if Stories Don't End is anything to go by, Dawes will continue to grow and impress.
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