About a year ago I was having a conversation with Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional and we delved into the topic of genuine people embracing genuine music, and at that exact moment the time we were in the green room listening to This Wild Life wrap up their set, entranced in their ability to write and perform songs. Twelve months later I’m still left with the remnants of the spirit of that talk; however, this time the subject of genuine music is ‘Crooked Shadows’, the first album from Dashboard in 9 years.
As I think about where I was in 2009 and where I am now, I can not help but think that the growth I experienced had a direct impact on the person I am today, and this logic applied as I first heard the songs from ‘Crooked Shadows’. I rejoiced because I got the impression that Chris had a new, refreshed tonality to his music, there was an element to the production that enabled the songs to breathe that may have been new to him and definitely new to us.
The record starts off with the single “We Fight”, a remarkable, anthemic, shout-it-out-loud song that I personally always thought the DC catalog could benefit from, and now we have it. The voicing of “We never learned to keep our voices down, no! We only learn to shout, so we fight our way in, we fight our way out” is a relatable line on so many levels. It’s a strong retrospective collection of great lyrics, catchy melodies, and energy second to none that recounts the beaten paths he/we took to get where we are now. Chris has a special skill set to sing from a personal perspective while enabling the listener to sing along as if they wrote it for themselves. All in all, as a first song, this sets a strong tone for the record.
The album transitions smoothly from the first track to the second. There are familiar soundscapes in what we hear that will surely keep the Dashboard fans of yesteryear engaged. “Catch You” does a fantastic job with the repeatable, crowd participating at a show type of hook in the chorus.
By the third song of Crooked Shadows, there is a clear movement in where the mood takes us as “About Us” morphs beautifully the guitar sounds of Dashboard with a pop-based rhythm underneath it all. As previously mentioned, people grow, tastes progress and one could assume how Chris writes a song has also taken life in different forms these days. As a songwriter, we are shown a new dynamic range of music inflection, vocal delivery and a pop backbeat all in the same song. It’s not forced, but stimulating, it’s pleasant and welcomed.
In what I feel like was a great layout of songs for the track listing, the newer sound of “About Us” segues perfectly to a top-notch acoustic-only song “Heart Beat Here”. Over the years, Dashboard records have always achieved a beautiful balance of full band songs versus acoustic ones. “Heart Beat Here” is no exception to the balance and it’s here to stay. Get used to it. Expect it in the setlist rotation. Sing along to it when you hear it live. Through the various avenues we have all taken to becoming fans of Chris, one thing is certain, there is nothing more binding than all of us in the crowd, standing next to thousands of strangers and in impeccable fashion singing along so loudly when it’s just him and a guitar.
There is a bravery to taking steps forward, and with that comes the satisfaction in knowing that what ‘Crooked Shadows’ brought us was exactly what was meant for us to hear. That’s special. That’s why you should listen to this record.
To purchase the new record, click here!