As punk rock proliferated radio airwaves, Dashboard Confessional cemented their role at the vanguard of an entire music scene. Facing familiar aches with tenderness and precision, singer/songwriter Chris Carrabba rocketed the band into mainstream focus, solidifying their place as one of the biggest alternative bands of the 2000s. Crooked Shadows—the return of Dashboard Confessional and the band’s first new album in over eight years —explores Carrabba’s reclamation of those simple yet extraordinary moments in life that long stood as the unsung heroes of his songwriting, as he reflects on experiences of his own and those closest to him. The result is a deeply cathartic body of work that traverses the complications and vulnerabilities of relationships while scrutinizing the possibility of self-improvement.
(Photo Credit: David Bean)
In place of a more traditional year-end best-of list, Talkhouse has asked some of our favorite artists to choose their favorite album of 2018 and tell us all about it.
—The Talkhouse Team
For me, the album of the year was J Mascis’ Elastic Days. I’ve listened to Dinosaur Jr. and J Mascis for so many years and have found massive inspiration, but also—just out of pure fandom—I’m astounded that he can still make records that are right on that line between brash and beautiful, and that seem to be emotionally revealing. He’s an artist whose records I wait for; I’ll continue to listen to this one until the next comes out.
The lyrics to the title track grab me pretty heavily. I feel like J Mascis is the master of understatement. There’s so much that he says with his voice. They’re heavy lyrics, but if you were to just write them down on a page—they do have depth, but they’re not imbued with resonance until you hear him sing. If anybody else says, “Driving off/Trying to meet you/Feel it out/Will I need to,” I don’t know that that’s a lyric that makes for further introspection on the listener’s end. Except when J Mascis sings it, it’s this wonderful mystery of, what could that mean? I know what that feels like, what does that mean to me? When do I feel that way?
It’s hard to pick one favorite song. “Web So Dense” is a song for me that really has that inspiring factor—I listen to it and think, how can he (or anybody) continue to write songs and find new ways to speak plainly, and have the songs be so rich in meaning? And, how is it that I’m still enthralled with this story? Not that it’s a singular story, but he’s always been the singular narrator. I think in that sense, there’s maybe a bridge for me—I don’t think I could be such a massive fan of each and every record if he didn’t venture out into new territory with each and every record. But at its heart, “Web So Dense” is still a J Mascis song, and Elastic Days still a J Mascis record. That song for me is an inspiring touchstone to his earlier works without retreading old territory. I don’t get the sense that that was the endeavor, and that’s what’s so inspiring about this.
I listen to music in two ways: as a music fan, of course, and as someone who writes music. There’s two or three writers I think about, J being one of them (Robert Smith being another), who are continuing to tap into that place that made me so intrigued in the first place as a fan—without it ever getting to be a trope, or without it ever getting to be, frankly, predictable. It’s still just different enough that I’m dying already for the next record, and this one has been out for, what, three weeks now? And I’ve already decided it’s the record of the year!
I think in the best way, this is a record that sits well in any time. It could have come out 10 years ago, or 25 years ago, and it could also come out 10 or 25 years from now. There’s an absence of certain right-now earmarks that I personally find exciting and enjoyable. But that’s not at all a slag on what’s going on right now; There are sonic things that Judah & the Lion or lovelytheband are doing that I think are incredible and will mark this year. Robyn is one that will mark this year, and I think the sonic template from Halsey will mark this year—and that’s not even getting into the indie rock bands. I mention those on purpose, because those are artists I admire. So to say that, even though I like the sound that I think is defining the current era of music quite a bit, I like that it seems like J Mascis is unaware of what era he’s in, no matter the era. It doesn’t matter to him. I find that exciting.
As told to Annie Fell.
(Photo Credit: Left, David Bean)