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Dolorean - The Unfazed Album Cover

Dolorean - The Unfazed

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9.0
DoloreanThe Unfazed
Record Label: Partisan Records
Release Date: January 18, 2011
The Unfazed’s January release date alone puts all of 2011 at risk of being top-heavy for folk music. A bold claim to be sure, but the latest from Portland, Oregon’s Dolorean is a rivetingly bold album. Steeped in poetic introspection and brilliant, heart-wrenching tunes, The Unfazed achieves an ageless spook the Spanish band of the same name has yet to even begin thinking about. When frontman Al James croons through the laundry list of things he is “unfazed” by in “The Unfazed” (“pain,” “love,” “rain,” “debts I cannot pay,” “death” and “living until I die”), he’s singing the anthem of everyone who has ever been jaded with life, but is pressing on in spite of it.

The album’s timeless quality takes root mostly in the lyrics. Sometimes, James waxes Springsteen, like in “Thinskinned” where he tells us, “I’ve got my brother’s car for the weekend, a full tank of gas… This old ghost town is filled with taverns and motels, let’s stay here for a while.” There’s a thin layer of 70’s vibe in the song’s chorus, too. Other times, he’s daringly straightforward: “It’s your desire that we enter these fights, and you always end up on top,” he accuses on “Country Clutter,” “A little heartache, well it’s a small price to pay if you know you can get what you want.” Later on in the album, he moans, “If I find love, I won’t let it go.”

Whichever lyrical route he takes, though, he manages to make his words resonate with the soul. That he does it over wispy folk melodies increases the album’s beauty exponentially. The band has a delightful habit of adding synthesizers in select places; in “Hard Working Dogs,” a high-pitched line flanks a declaration that “love is frightening!” Still better is their knack for combining different spectrums of roots music, like in “Black Hills Gold,” where groovy blues instrumentation fits nicely with folk melodies, or in “Fools Gold Ring,” where a variety of stripped-down instruments converge to cohesive effect. And in “These Slopes Gave Me Hope,” the entire song is done over a single chord, landing it somewhere between a hymn and a chant.

When Elliott Smith passed away, he left a folk icon gap in Portland. It’s not that there’s a need for a single artist or group to plug the gap, since the city’s music scene is as vibrant as it’s ever been. But for junkies eager to obsess over the little things, perhaps no one group is more ready to step up to the role than Dolorean. They’ve proved that with The Unfazed, where they moan about life’s angst and hardships, but ultimately find release through the music itself – not at all unlike Smith. They may not be quite as distraught as Smith was, and they certainly opt not to strum as fast as he did, but the shared sentiment is still there. And on The Unfazed, that sentiment carries a savory beauty.

Recommended If You LikeElliott Smith, The Mountain Goats, Springsteen storytelling

Track list1. Thinskinned
2. Country Clutter
3. The Unfazed
4. Hard Working Dogs
5. Fools Gold Ring
6. Sweet Boy
7. Black Hills Gold
8. If I Find Love
9. These Slopes Gave Me Hope
10. How Is It

Listen to Dolorean here.
This review is a user submitted review from Matthew Tsai. You can see all of Matthew Tsai's submitted reviews here.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 10 of 10
07:06 PM on 01/03/11
#2
inthemidst
Grace and Peace
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Love your reviews Matt. Great job. I'm intrigued!
11:26 PM on 01/03/11
#3
Meeze
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I was all kinds of confused about Delorean (Spanish electronic group) and Dolorean (Portland folk group). was expecting the former, but now I'm excited for the latter.
01:45 AM on 01/05/11
#4
thesollopsist
Up all night, and down all day
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RIYL sounds really promising.
08:10 AM on 01/05/11
#5
bandnamexmyname
&^%^&
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Thought this was a review for Delorean, who released something just last year. But this sounds good as well.
08:51 AM on 01/05/11
#6
pleasedontpanic
I believe. Help my unbelief.
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So awesome to see these guys getting love on the site. I always get excited when I see the name Dolorean come up but most of the time it's the other group. Definitely picking up this release.
05:05 PM on 01/05/11
#7
Lueda Alia
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I love this band so much.
06:59 AM on 01/06/11
#8
CheckeredFloors
nah
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The RIYL has sucked me in.
06:18 PM on 01/12/11
#9
pamoose43
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Let me begin by saying Dolorean does not rank within my top 10 favorite bands...probably not even top 50. But that may change with The Unfazed. I've been listening to these guys for the past decade, and each release finds them growing more comfortable and confident as a band. I received my copy today in the mail, and after two listens I can already state with confidence it will end up on my year end top 10 list...and I will be returning to this album for the next twenty years. This is a gorgeous melancholy album, perfect for a snowy winter day. While I don't mean to make any musical comparison, I would add fans of Mark Kozelek/Red House Painters/Sun Kil Moon and Damien Jurado would grow attached to this (or any Dolorean) release.
07:24 PM on 01/12/11
Matthew Tsai
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Let me begin by saying Dolorean does not rank within my top 10 favorite bands...probably not even top 50. But that may change with The Unfazed. I've been listening to these guys for the past decade, and each release finds them growing more comfortable and confident as a band. I received my copy today in the mail, and after two listens I can already state with confidence it will end up on my year end top 10 list...and I will be returning to this album for the next twenty years. This is a gorgeous melancholy album, perfect for a snowy winter day. While I don't mean to make any musical comparison, I would add fans of Mark Kozelek/Red House Painters/Sun Kil Moon and Damien Jurado would grow attached to this (or any Dolorean) release.
I agree with all those comparisons. Good call.

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