(Taylor from Dawes performs "A Little Bit of Everything")
A few years ago I had the special opportunity to share some of my own songs with Marilyn and Alan Bergman, one of the greatest songwriting teams of all time. I'll never forget what they said to me after I played for them. They gave each other a funny look and told me my lyrics felt lazy. Alan called to my attention a moment during a second verse when I rhymed "time" with "mind." In his day, he told me, a songwriter would never settle for anything less than a perfect rhyme.
At nineteen-years old, I wasn't ready to hear this. I figured that the disparity between their "traditional" understanding of songwriting and my "modern" understanding was just too great. They clung to an outdated model and I, along with my generation and a couple generations before mine, for that matter, sought to break away.
Then, over the next few months, listening to the radio, I began to notice that everyone these days rhymed "time" with "mind". It drove me insane, as if I'd caught some OCD bug from the Bergmans. Suddenly I found myself diving into Sinatra and old show-tunes, anything where I knew I'd find some "correct" songwriting. I began to discover this remarkable world where the greatest value was placed on craft, where the rules I'd ran from served only to clarify and augment the effect of a song. It was one of those, "what have I been missing?" moments. Since then, whenever I listen to a song, I wonder to myself, how much is this artist in love with his craft? How much does he appreciate the tradition and can I hear it through his music, regardless of how unconventional it may sound? It's become increasingly clear to me that few young songwriters appreciate the song as much as Taylor Goldsmith from the LA rock band, Dawes.
When you listen to their new album, Nothing Is Wrong, out June 7th via ATO, you will hear eleven honest-to-God songs. You will hear their love for tradition, for the seventies folk and Stax-era soul they grew up on. You will hear powerful three-part harmonies and you will hear clever, meticulously crafted lyrics. Taylor is a storyteller. Whether he's singing about himself and all he hopes to learn from the world, or he's singing about another man in another place and time, you will follow him from first verse to last.
My favorite song on the album and the case in point for their songwriting is the closer, "A Little Bit Of Everything." I asked Taylor to explain how this song came about. He told me that once he came up with the title, he knew the song would "break down into three separate verses all funneling into that line ('a little bit of everything')" and that each verse would provide the phrase with new meaning. In the first verse, it's used to describe why life's unlivable, in the second, what it takes to forget, and finally, what matters most about love.
Whether or not Dawes resonates with you stylistically, I'm convinced the quality of their songs is undeniable. Taylor took a risk with these songs; they're very literal and potentially hokey ("A Little Bit of Everything" contains food lyrics--awesome food lyrics). As far as I'm concerned, though, the risk paid off. Each song on Nothing Is Wrong is a deeply fulfilling journey delivered with expert language and restraint atop one of the best rhythm sections playing today, led by bass man Wylie Gelber and drummer, Griffin Goldsmith. Suffice it to say, while they might rock a little too hard, the Bergmans would be proud.
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