North Hills

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Often billed as the next generation of the Laurel Canyon sound, rootsy quartet Dawes evoke the spirit of their predecessors by matching acoustic-based music reminiscent of the Band or Harvest-era Neil Young with Byrds/Crosby, Stills & Nash-like vocal harmonies and lyrics that aspire to poetry. The quartet's debut album, North Hills (named for the group's Los Angeles area hometown, which is only 20 minutes away from Laurel Canyon), was recorded almost entirely live in the studio to 2" analog tape, an approach perfectly suited to the combo's earthy sound. The disc's producer, Jonathan Wilson, often invited the members of Dawes to join in on informal, multi-generational jam sessions featuring Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst, the Heartbreakers' Benmont Tench, and the Black Crowes' Chris Robinson, and the spare, tasteful vibe of these artists seems to have inspired the feeling of North Hills. Lead vocalist Taylor Goldsmith is a careful wordsmith and endearing, emotive vocalist, coming off a bit like a mix of Gram Parsons and Kings of Leon's Caleb Followill. "When My Time Comes" finds him delivering a rapid-fire Dylanesque monologue about the difficulty of personal maturation, before breaking into a soaring chorus worthy of U2's Bono. Elsewhere, such as on "Bedside Manner" and first single "Love Is All I Am," the band leaves space for more gentle reflection, with lazy drumbeats, loping bass, and subtle organ flourishes creating the musical equivalent of a breezy California sunset.

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