Unslushed because: Yep Roc. The Chapel Hill-based label has consistently released rock albums that hit my sweet spot. (At least until they signed Rock Plaza Central, not to beat a dead…yuk yuk…horse.) Along with younger acts-I liked that first Comas album-Yep Roc’s roster includes legends like Robyn Hitchcock, the Apples in Stereo, John Doe, Sloan, and Ian Hunter.
Factors not initially considered: Due in part to my virtual lack of an Internet connection this week, Dolorean remain shrouded in mystery. The liner notes list the names of the band members and the studios where You Can’t Win was recorded, but not the towns where those studios are located. I don’t know where they’re from or when they recorded this, and none of the names inside ring a bell. But I’ve listened to the CD about six times through today.
[Okay, I’ve looked into things a little more; the Yep Roc love is a little embarrassing now. See the update at the end of this post if you’re curious.]
Upon further review: A lovely, laid-back melodic rock album. The five guys in Dolorean don’t try to do too much, accenting songwriter Al James’s pretty melodies with understated guitar, piano, organ, and backup vocals that seem to always fall into just the right nooks. Reference points (admittedly dated; screw you all! I just turned 35!) would be bands like Mojave 3, Radar Bros., and Spain, but it seems that well-crafted, stripped-down music like this can do its thing without feeling overly derivative.
Quiet interludes like “You Don’t Want to Know” and “33-53.9°N/118-38.8°W,” with its liquid ooh’s and ahh’s, fill the gaps to elevate a group of good songs into a confident, coherent album. Winning tracks here include “Heather Remind Me How This Ends,” “Just Don’t Leave Town,” and “What One Bottle Can Do,” which pulls off a funny, sing-along chorus in the midst of its doleful tale: “I drink one bottle of wine each night to help me get over you/I’ve grown quite fond of what one bottle can do.”
But for me, on vacation at the beach with just my parents this week, “Beachcomber Blues” has become an anthem. Lead guitarist Emil Amos and pianist Jay Clarke color James’s heartbroken lyrics with equally heartbreaking lines, creating an uncanny sense of longing that, as long as the song just keeps playing, makes you feel like you have everything you could ever need.
Update: They’re from Portland, Oregon, they’re no longer on Yep Roc, and it doesn’t look as though the split was all that amicable. Plus they’ve forsaken MySpace (amen). From their WordPress page:
A NOTE ABOUT DOLOREAN AND MYSPACE: THE TWO SITES THAT REPRESENT DOLOREAN ARE NOT RUN OR MAINTAINED BY DOLOREAN. WE HAVE NO WAY OF RESPONDING TO ANY MESSAGES SENT TO THESE SITES. IF YOU PURCHASE MUSIC THROUGH THESE SITES THE MONEY GOES TO OUR FORMER LABEL, YEP ROC RECORDS, WHO ALREADY HAVE PLENTY OF OUR MONEY. TO PURCHASE ALBUMS FROM US VISIT THE ‘RECORDINGS’ PAGE ON THIS SITE.
– Dolorean WordPress page. You can also stream the entire album there. You Can’t Win indeed.