Dawes lead singer/songwriter Taylor Goldsmith is in an anxious mood on the band's seventh album, 2020's lyrically incisive Good Luck with Whatever. On the wry, Bowie-esque title track, he paints a picture of suburban dread, singing "There's a man with a chainsaw/Standing out in my yard/He says he's just trimming trees/But he's clearly trying too hard." And what of that conspicuous Chevy Suburban with the government plates? While it's unclear if Goldsmith has done anything to warrant his fear, he's not taking any chances and plans his getaway as the car's engine idles ominously outside. Equally potent images arise throughout Good Luck with Whatever as Goldsmith writes candidly about growing older and finding ways to retain a sense of identity in an increasingly complicated and troubling world. This emotionally spent vibe is most present in lyrics where Goldsmith teeters towards poetry, somehow making inspired use of cumbersome words like "amnesty" and "pendulum." That said, it's his knack for straightforward ironies that really grab you. On "Still Feel Like a Kid," in which he writes about how people often still feel like children despite their age, Goldsmith sings, "I can't stay up past midnight anymore/But I still feel like a kid/There's always part of me that's a little sore/But I still feel like a kid." The band recorded the album in Nashville with producer Dave Cobb, who's helmed projects for alt-country luminaries like Shooter Jennings, Sturgill Simpson, and Jason Isbell. He brings tactile warmth to the record, reinforcing the group's classic pop inclinations and never getting in their way. There's a sense on the album that Dawes are consciously picking out finely curated aspects of their influences: the Mark Ronson-esque fuzz-tone guitar lead on "Good Luck with Whatever," the Paul Simon intimations of "St. Augustine at Night," and the way "None of My Business" smartly marries Born to Run-era Bruce Springsteen with late-'60s the Band. We also get the driving late-'70s power pop of "Who Do You Think You're Talking To," the Tom Petty-inspired "Between the Zeros and the Ones," and the ruminative '80s adult contemporary of "Didn't Fix Me." Of course, none of this sounds too slavish and speaks to Dawes' firm grasp on their influences. Good Luck with Whatever is dad rock at its finest, unapologetically classicist in tone and full of a hard-won gratitude. But the way that it's also struck through with a wry sense of existential dread speaks to the group's decidedly un-dad-like ability to perfectly capture the climate of the present moment.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar