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4.6 out of 5 stars
North Hills
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2009
Format: MP3 Music
i had never heard of this band until exactly one week ago. i went to the local rock venue to check out deertick and these guys were the openers. i can honestly say that i have never seen a crowd warm to a band as quickly and completely as i witnessed happen that night with dawes. i believe much of this has to do with the sincerity of these musicians as well as their songs which were played with intensity and a full/warm sound that palpably resonated with the listeners.

deertick was fine, but it was dawes that stuck with me. although i was not completely convinced of their ability to conjure, in-studio, the experience of that live show i decided to throw down the ten bones and see for myself. the short answer to my question was 'no', but despite that "north hills" has found a regular rotation in my player for the past 7 days. it is not a great album, but it is very good. more importantly it is an album that seems fits these fleeting washington summer days.

this band somehow evolved out of a band named simon dawes. they shed at least two members and, from what i was able to hear, also shed many layers of musical pretense. while simon dawes sounded a little too obsessed with sounding like so many darlings of modern day pout-rock, dawes' only concern appears to be making a song the best it can be in the simplest way possible. this means sparse instrumentation (guitar, bass, drums, keys) and production flanked by a mixed musical bag of roots americana and beautiful harmonies.

the lead singer, guitarist taylor goldsmith is the sole songwriter on this album which is a bit of a catch 22. on one hand it gives "north hills" a pleasantly cohesive feel, but at the same time does bog the album down here and there with songs that seem just a little too alike ("that western skyline", "when you call my name", "bedside manner"). this, coupled with the lack of priority given to the instrumental aspect of these songs produces the albums weakest moments.

it's a shame as i know, from hearing the band live, that the technical prowess is there. the drummer and bass player (as well as goldsmith himself) are perfectly capable of taking these compositions to the next level. in fact, many of the live arrangements seemed to indicate that these songs had been developed in just this way. perhaps taylor is weary of the songs being changed in this way as it may detract from the lyrical content? if you are reading this mr. goldsmith, i am here to tell you that this is not true. bringing the rhythm section forward and throwing in an instrumental passage here and there will only serve to enhance your songs. it will, in-fact, make the difference between a very good album and a great one.

if you're a fan of stripped down rock in the vein of wilco, the mother hips, and mason jennings then check these guys out. beautiful tracks like "love is all i am", "when my time comes", and "take me out of the city" will keep you coming back to the album. it'll also be a nice primer for the next release by dawes which i predict will be one to watch for.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2010
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
Dawes' North Hills is the best country rock album I have heard in a long time. IF you like Eagles, Jayhawks, Flying Burrito Brothers, etc., you will like these guys. The harmonies are tight and the songs are well written. These days, I rarely play a new CD 20 times the first month I have it, but I have with this one.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2010
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
First heard Dawes on WXPN, their hit play was an instant favorite "When My Time Comes. Great harmony, a true country-rock band with a light touch of gospel. Good grooves. Look forward to hearing more from this group.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2009
Format: MP3 Music
I discovered Dawes because I'm a massive fan of another band {Delta Spirit - check them out. My absolute favorite band.} whom Dawes supported on tour.I actually briefly talked to the lead singer, Taylor, before the show because my friend and I unknowingly parked beside their band van. He {and the rest of the band} is very sincere and kind in everything he says. They all have a good sense of humor, and all seemed genuinely appreciative of any support they got. Being so impressed by their opening act, this poor college student forked out a tenner for their album at the show, but I was more than happy to support them.

On the three hour ride back home {listen, I'm willing to travel ANY distance to see Delta. They're that good.}, my friend and I popped in this CD, and we would get so excited when we heard the songs we'd heard live. We were really quite impressed by the songs with a second listen.

"Love Is All I Am" is a personal favorite. Lyrically, I think it's beautiful. Taylor sings, "Love is not convenient./It does not cease at your command,/and you might take and leave it,/but love is all I am."

The musical talent of the band is illustrated in "When My Time Comes." The intro got everyone at the show rocking, and my friend and I car-boogied to the song on the way back home.

I think this band will go far if given the support they deserve. I'm more than willing to spread them around. Give them a shot. I think their time has come.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2009
Format: Audio CD
I first discovered Dawes when they were a surprise opening act for Ben Lee and Low vs. Diamond. No one was there to see Dawes because they had been unannounced, but the entire audience began to take notice as they started their first song (they opened with a striking "Mama!" in unison, to start the track Bedside Manner). I bought their album immediately after their set ended and have never been happier with an album purchase. I enjoyed their live show so much that I kept coming back to this album as a way to remind myself of what their concert had been like. Listening to it recaptures some of that indescribable feeling from seeing them live. With more and more listening, I started to love these recordings for themselves too. For the best listening experience, turn it up loud, sit back, and listen. Every song on this album is amazing. The best of the best though, are Peace in the Valley, When My Time Comes, and Love is All I Am, reviewed in detail below:

Love is All I Am: Live, this song is a lively summary of a healthy, realistic view of love ('Love is not excitement/ it is not kissing, or holding hands/I'm not some assignment/No, love is all I am"). This recording is more mellow and it's easy to miss the complexity of the music, especially behind how captivating Taylor's voice is. Turn it up loud to hear everything.

When My Time Comes: To give you an idea of how musically challenging this song is, when Wylie Gelber plays his bass parts during the live show, he sits down on stage so that he can move his fingers fast enough for that underlying rhythm, and he appears to suffer from hand pain afterwards. The bass rhythm is a fast-paced catchy tune that runs through the whole song to tie everything together. The lyrics resonate with the listener ("But every path I had taken/ and conclusion I drew/ would put truth back under the knife", "Oh, you can judge the whole world by the sparkle that you think it lacks/ Yes, you can stare into the abyss but it's starin' right back"). And of course Taylor belts out the lyrics with enough feeling to convince me he means every word. This is the kind of music I can get behind.

Peace in the Valley: This is an appropriately epic closer to the year's best album. Same story as the above songs. The lyrics are simple, but profound ("If I don't find peace in the valley/ I've got no place else to look", "But I want fire tumbling out into the night/ I want you to know why you hold me close"). They're also backed up by some solid music from the guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard - often all at once. The song would be short but for the extended jam session in the middle, which is one of the best parts of the song. Expect wonderful things during this song at a live show. This one is the album track that I think comes closest to capturing the essence of their live performance.

These three songs are 5-star plus songs. The rest are four stars, but would be five stars if they weren't so overshadowed by the three mentioned above. That is, with the exception of If You Let Me Be Your Anchor and Take Me Out of the City, which are boring in comparison. But even these start to grow on you after 30+ plays of the album and are better than many other artists' best offerings.

Having seen their live show first, the album is not as impressive. These recordings are missing some necessary element to recreate the energy and enthrallment of their live performances. I suspect that they recorded the tracks before perfecting their performance dynamic. I think it's unfair to judge the album in comparison to the live performance, which is why this rates five stars. My only dissatisfaction in this album is that I know it could be a little better. If you have the chance, buy the album first and then see them live so you don't ruin it for yourself.

It may be clear by now that this is my favorite new band of the year, but they may be my favorite of the decade. And if you have a chance to see them live, don't miss it for the world. I'll soon be seeing my fifth Dawes concert in a year and they've all been worth it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2011
Format: MP3 Music
I first heard Dawes on Daytrotter, and was compelled to buy North Hills. I predict, even though I only gave it 3 Stars, that it will be one of my favorites for a long time. The songs are great, and the performance fits them perfectly. There are plenty of track by track reviews to choose from, and with the ability to hear the songs on any number of internet sites, there is really no reason to provide one. The purpose of my review is to critique the actual recording.

To me, the purpose of recording and releasing an album/CD is to allow others to hear them in an ideal environment. i.e., if you were sitting there when it was recorded. This particular recording sounds more like a Tascam 4-track cassete recorder demo where there aren't enough channels to mic every instrument. Actually, I've heard better sounding demos done with a stereo cassette deck. With the technology available today for home recording, there is no reason budget should be an issue, so I can only assume the band chose to have the recording sound this way. I can only hope the band will consider this and re-record the album in a way that does the songs justice, and doesn't make the listener feel like they just paid for a amateur bootleg. Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for some auto-tuned glossy perfection. I only want to be able to listen to it so it doesn't sound like I have cotton in my ears.

With all of that said, I would buy it again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
Dawes is a foursome from LA, fronted by brothers Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith, bringing a mix of ol' lazy (and I mean that in the best sense) music reminiscent of the Band and more recently Band of Horses.

"North Hills" (11 tracks; 55 min.) starts off with an introvert "That Western Skylight", which sets the table for the album perfectly. It is followed by first single "Love Is All I Am", equally gentle. The album plays perfectly for a humid summer night as the tracks flow one from another. There are a couple of more up-tempo tracks on the album, none better than "My Girl To Me", in which Taylor's vocals remind me of Robert Palmer, of all people, just a great track. In truth, there are no weak tracks on here, and I've been enjoying this album quite a lot.

I had the good fortune of catching Dawes in concert recently at the excellent Indie Summer series here in Cincinnati (headlining an up-and-coming indie band every Friday on Fountain Square). Excellent show. At some point, someone from the audience screamed out "you guys are dawesome!" and that about sums it up. "North Hills" is a great alvum, and if you have a chance to see these guys live, don't miss it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2009
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
Having purchased November's edition (2009) of THE ROLLING STONE to read the interview on Mr. Tom Petty, I decided to order the music he, when asked, said he was enjoying at the time: 'Monster of Folk' was one - Now don't get me wrong, I like most of MOF - but when I placed the order - Dawes, North Hills - popped-up, too. Again, thank you!! I feel as if I have unearthed a rare and exquisite treasure . . . For the soul, kids. For the soul.

The North Hills album offers the most soothing and compelling lyrics, music and harmony, I have heard in quiet some time. Sweetly reminds me of, and I will date myself here, Poco. The quiet side of Poco, ie, "Keep On Tryin'"

Onward and upward . . . In an effort to stay current may I say that I AM a big fan now. To that point, what else might I order from DAWES!!??
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2013
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
Dawes are just starting to gather momentum through appearances on Letterman and with Mumford and Son's.
These discs were bought for a family member as a gift as they weren't available in New Zealand at the time. He tells me he is really getting into the music and enjoying the three CD's I bought for him. All good stuff he says.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Vinyl
Dawes North Hills on vinyl is a two record set recorded at 45RPM. Be aware that this is not a 33RPM LP; make sure your turntable can switch to 45 easily before ordering this album.

Dawes has grown on me after I became addicted to Middle Brother (Middle Brother). Dawes lead singer Taylor Goldsmith played and sang on the Middle Brother album, along with Deer Tick and Delta Spirit members.

This album is classified as rock and roll, and maybe a little bit pop. The songs ride that very delicate line between really great ballads with a rock and maybe a little folk background; and country music. For me this is a great blend, but if they did a little more slide guitar, the music would go the wrong direction to too much country. It's hard to describe, but it's like that fine line Neil Young, or John Prine tread.

The comparison to Neil Young is not a bad one. Goldsmith has an unusual voice; to some it might be annoying. To me, it is fine music. Like Neil Young, Goldsmith isn't always on key. The songs on North Hills are ballads, talking about love lost, or love that could be.

I've never heard Dawes live; the closest has been the Daytrotter recordings. I can imagine they would be fantastic in some smoky packed dark bar. The album captures some of that energy, and I like that.

The vinyl album is an excellent pressing. The 45RPM is annoying in that there are only a few songs per side, only around 10 minutes of music. Not only do I have to pull the platter on my turntable to move a belt (annoying but not hard to do), but I have to flip albums a lot more frequently. In theory this is supposed to be an audiophile format. For a given time recorded, a 45RPM track is much longer than 33RPM, the wave form can be spread out over a longer distance, and the music will be more accurate. I'm not sure this was essential for Dawes; a standard 33RPM pressing would have made much more sense. At least the album is not priced at a premium.

The album includes a copy of the CD. Frankly, I would have been happy with a download code.

Dawes is an unusual band. I think it is an acquired taste. Once acquired, it's hard to get enough of these guys.

Other albums worth considering if you like Dawes:
Middle Brother
The Black Dirt Sessions (Deer Tick)
Ode to Sunshine (Delta Spirit)
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