Dashboard Confessional

Crooked Shadows

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Chris Carrabba eased into an eight-year hiatus after the 2009 release of Alter the Ending, stopping to moonlight in the folk-stomp outfit Twin Forks but generally avoiding the open-hearted, open-ended emo that had been Dashboard Confessional's stock in trade. Carrabba has no compunction about embracing sensitivity on Crooked Shadows, a brief LP that revives Dashboard Confessional's signatures while simultaneously polishing them to sound shiny and new. Ultimately, the latter instinct overwhelms the former, turning Crooked Shadows into some fashion of emo easy listening, but this mellowing is perhaps the inevitable second act for an unabashedly sentimental singer/songwriter like Carrabba. While he can still harness his full-throated wail -- it's there on the opener, "We Fight" -- and will not avoid a surge of volume or intensity, Carrabba at his core is a romantic, writing melodic songs about all manner of love won, lost, and unrequited. Writers like this lend themselves to softer, supple production, which is generally what Crooked Shadows offers. Even the impassioned moments -- the shoutier choruses or the ones with noisier guitars -- feel controlled and measured, acting as complements to songs that are cozy in their familiar contours. Perhaps Carrabba still writes lyrics in broad terms, but this willingness to sculpt his sounds on the softer side indicates that he's discovered a way to sustain this allegedly adolescent music well into his adulthood.

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