By Dashboard Confessional
One time, on one of my regular bored trawls through the lower vestiges of the internet in search of some light entertainment, I stumbled across a semi-amusing game called "create your own em* band name". In terms of design, it was based upon random band name generators that put together random nouns and adjectives to create names, but took its main focus from lampooning em* bands' tendencies to stick to a common verbal word-pool when choosing band names and song titles. For example, there would often be some sort of a reference to colour, weather and/or seasons, e.g. "Black Snow In Summer". That's a rubbish example, but you get the general gist.
It is with this notion of a genre-song-title-generator in mind that started me off on the task of judging the new Dashboard Confessional album. Now, without meaning to be overly judgemental, after you have become somewhat synonymous as one of the highly-successful figureheads of the "new-wave-of-em*", then calling your album "Dusk and Summer" is (a) asking for trouble from potential detractors and (b) unlikely to be representative of a radical departure from a successful sound.
So, yes, on his fourth release as Dashboard Confessional Chris Carrabba hasn't hugely changed in his writing scope, style or structure, but there are notable progressions. Most obvious is the move towards a more stadium-rock soaring-balladeer approach in the vein of U2. This isn't particularly surprising given that (a) the band opened for U2 on a number of their shows last year and (b) U2 producer Daniel Lanois has been roped in to add that trademark quasi-epic shimmer so beloved of Bono and chums. This is particularly evident on opening number (and debut single) "Don't Wait", with multi-layered harmonies and a soaring chorus, as well as elsewhere on tracks such as "The Secrets In the Telling".
Overall "Dusk and Summer" doesn't particularly stray from the aforementioned radio-friendly blueprint. There's nothing that quite reaches the song writing prowess of "Hands Down", and you won't find anything with the emotional nakedness of earlier songs such "The Places You Have Come to Fear The Most", but the lack of variety on the record doesn't detract from its appeal as a straight forward pop-rock record, perfect for (as the title suggests) Summer. And sometimes that's all you need.