Dawes is a band that has been slowly and steadily building up rapport with the folk-rock scene since its 2009 debut, North Hills. They’re a tight four-piece act driven by soothing harmonies and rootsy rhythms, yet with each release they’ve found a way to switch up the formula and create biting, emotional journeys for the listener. All Your Favorite Bands is no different in that aspect; the album traverses the woes of post-break-up life—the highs, the lows and the confusion that comes with them. Peppered with bursts of self-doubt, bitterness, frustration and happiness, there’s a powerful emotional duality laid out throughout All Your Favorite Bands that wonderfully encapsulates the emotional rollercoaster of a break-up.
The album starts out with the plaintive “Things Happen,” a song that sets the tone for the rest of the album with deep-rooted grooves, subtle yet accentuated piano licks and catchy hooks. “I could go on talking or I could stop wringing out each memory until I get every drop,” vocalist Taylor Goldsmith croons as the song begins. It’s just one of many lines that stick out amidst a sea of frustration and clarity for the album’s narrative. There’s not a whole lot of dynamism throughout the album—it’s a fairly standard musical outing for a band that has already solidified its sound—but there are moments of musical and lyrical excitement that make the album worth delving into.
Tracks like “Waiting For Your Call” can begin to feel like filler, slowly slipping onward with hesitance to blossom into something more, only to pull the listener in with powerful, personal lines like “If I can’t feel your presence, let me feel the lack. ‘Cause even if you never will be coming back, I’ll be waiting for your call.” Lines such as these drag you out of the songs and allow you to truly empathize with the narrator, and that’s what makes All Your Favorite Bands such an enjoyable album. It’s easy to write a break-up record filled with sad-sack songs or angry and aggressive tracks, but being able to craft an album of contemplative, introspective reflection is an impressive feat. However, the subject matter does feel like it’s treading over familiar territory at times.
On the nine-minute jam “Now That It’s Too Late, Maria,” Goldsmith drops a line that feels like it’s supposed to be revelatory in nature, acknowledging that neither party in this break-up can truly be to blame. However, the same sentiment was shared in “Things Happen” and is found throughout the album in bunches. It’s easy to prod at each track and find something a bit frustrating, as it seems like there are moments where the band is compositionally on cruise control. But at the same time there are still some exciting moments that indicate that Dawes still has quite a few tricks up its sleeve. “I Can’t Think About It Now” is a full-on bluesy gospel jam steeped in traditionalism. Female vocal lines pop up in the chorus and add a particularly robust nature to the track; Goldsmith’s vocals even eventually raise to a desperate falsetto reminiscent of Tom Petty. The album’s closer, “To Be Completely Honest,” provides an excellent take on the break-up album tropes as well, finding Goldsmith singing out that “I think I know how this ends. The universe keeps expanding while we discuss the particulars of being friends, and maybe that’s okay.”
Ultimately, All Your Favorite Bands isn’t a groundbreaking album for the band. It’s not really moving them forward much musically, but it’s a brilliant emotional journey into the head of someone reeling from a break-up and calmly but confusingly picking up all of the pieces. The album shows off the band’s songwriting chops, and while it may leave a bit to be desired musically, it’s still a great effort from an act that has solidified itself as a folk-rock powerhouse.