Staging a comeback when you’ve been away for a long period of time is always a difficult and tricky thing to get right. Dashboard Confessional last released an album in 2009, Alter the Ending, and it performed fairly modestly commercially. Almost a decade later, the band is back with new album Crooked Shadows, likely hoping to ride on the ’emo revival’ that is threatening to break out in 2018.
Crooked Shadows opens with We Fight, a battle cry anthem to the band’s fans and those who may be discovering them for the first time. Frontman Chris Carrabba delivers a gritty rock vocal and it’s almost as if the early 00s is back with a vengeance. The song doesn’t sound a million miles away from what the band has done before and it hits you squarely with a dose of nostalgia. It’s perhaps a cleverly calculated move but it works and it achieves what it’s supposed to.
From that point on though Crooked Shadows is a real mixed bag. Catch You sounds like it fell off the soundtrack for a 90s teen movie, Belong is an ill-advised venture into electro-pop that sounds more Taylor Swift than Dashboard Confessional, and About Us reminds you of the epic soundscapes the band is capable of producing.
Oddly the standout moment on the record is Heart Beat Here, the one song that doesn’t attempt to be a stadium anthem. Instead it pairs Carrabba’s fantastic vocal with an acoustic guitar. It’s a little bit Adam Lambert meets The Lumineers and it works. The folkier feel is welcome and it’s more current than anything else on the record. Album closer Just What to Say featuring Chrissy Costanza is another stripped-down moment that combines spoken-word delivery with a passionate chorus.
With only 9 songs, Crooked Shadows doesn’t outstay it’s welcome but it’s not going to be remembered among Dashboard Confessional’s best work either. The initial listen through is a pure nostalgic rush but sadly the album doesn’t hold up to repeated listens. I don’t see where it fits in the current musical landscape because for the most part it leans too heavily on what the band did in its heyday, and that isn’t what people are listening to right now.
Track list: 1. We Fight 2. Catch You 3. About Us 4. Heart Beat Here 5. Belong 6. Crooked Shadows 7. Open My Eyes (feat. Lindsey Stirling) 8. Be Alright 9. Just What to Say (feat. Chrissy Costanza) Record label: Fueled By Ramen Release date: 9th February 2018