California band Dawes dip their observant takes on our days of angst deep into a tub of ’70s folk and soft rock, turning “Passwords,” their sixth album, into a soothing, sugar-coated collection with a bittersweet lyrical aftertaste.
Led by singer-guitarist-songwriter Taylor Goldsmith, the 30-somethings in Dawes must know the catalog of authoritative artists of the era like The Eagles, Jackson Browne and Stephen Bishop to a tee, though they often add a twist or two of their own. The power chords of opener “Living In the Future” and a scarily intense guitar solo are a good match for the lyrics, which read like a directory of modern challenges, from keeping your passwords safe and remembering them to feelings of living on the edge and anticipating being pushed off.
“Feed the Fire” offers electric sitar and a melody like Stevie Nicks fronting Hall & Oates, while “Crack the Case” wishes for a lasting armistice — “It’s really hard to hate anyone/When you know what they’ve lived through.”
“I Can’t Love” buries the lead (“you any more ... than I do right now”) and “Mistakes We Should Have Made” is an energetic burst into regret with vocal assistance from Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig from indie pop band Lucius.
There’s some late ’80s Joni Mitchell in “Time Flies Either Way,” which ends the album with affecting piano playing from Lee Pardini and acts as a possible sequel to “Telescope,” about a boy whose life never seemingly recovers from his dad’s departure. Or maybe it still can.
—Pablo Gorondi, Associated Press