Dawes - North Hills

An album full of subtle wonder; a very lovely listen indeed.

Label: Loose Music

Rating: 7

California four-piece Dawes describe themselves as an ‘American rock n roll band’: both an entirely geographically accurate statement and an apposite description of the band’s sound which could only come from the heart of America. Dawes are made up of two brothers, Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith on vocals and drums complemented by two long-time friends Tay Straithairn on keyboards and bassist Wylie Gelber. There is an extremely close-knit feeling of intimacy in Dawes’ tight bond that comes across well on their debut album ‘North Hills’, which is a lovely collection of bruised and soulful Americana.

Intriguingly, ‘North Hills’ is actually the band’s debut which was given a very low-key release in 2009 but is now being re-released to follow the success of their critically acclaimed 2011 album, ‘Nothing Is Wrong.’ In that respect ‘North Hills’ offers an interesting insight into the band’s formative beginnings. The sound is folky and intimate throughout with a strong focus on sun-drenched harmonies and rolling melodies. Fellow Laurel Canyon resident Jonathan Wilson produces the album and Wilson has helped the band to deliver a wonderfully organic sound.

‘That Western Skyline’ immediately introduces the album’s themes of nature and spirituality. Singer Taylor Goldsmith is possessed with a lovely rich and swelling soulful voice which sounds particularly affecting as he delivers subtly melancholic lyrics like “My dreams they don’t come true, they only fall apart.”

There is something very evocative about Dawes’ take on harmonic Americana. ‘Love is Who I Am’ is a gorgeous lo-fi acoustic lament and the soaring chorus of ‘When My Time Comes’ is a real heart stopping moment as the music drops out and the a capella voices shine.

Admittedly, some of the more sleepy languid tracks drift by but these are countered with more muscular rock tracks, namely the jangling strum of ’My Girl To Me’ where they resemble a slightly more earthbound White Denim. A gospel influence takes hold towards the end of the album and it gives a rousing heart swelling climax to the closing ’Peace In The Wind’, a track in which you can easily lose yourself as both listener and band drift away into the sunset.

‘North Hills’ is an album full of subtle wonder, and in its evocative charms you can easily see how Dawes have become so feted. A very lovely listen indeed.