Can't Wake Up (Dualtone)
Reviewed by Alejandra Ramirez, Fri., May 4, 2018
In December, Shakey Graves tweeted, "Next album. New sound. Sell your suspenders."
Droll, but even then it was hard to imagine Austin son Alejandro Rose-Garcia forgoing the sound that collages his growing body of work. Out of his trademark suitcase kick-drum, 2011 debut Roll the Bones tumbled forth bedroom intimacy and playfulness, an old-timey, distinctly Southwestern collusion of acoustica – guitar, banjo, harmonica, hand claps – and even a telling Springsteen cover, 'billy bomp "I'm on Fire." That began buzz throughout his hometown but quick.
The Donor Blues EP (2012) retained said stripped folk jig, but national breakout And the War Came two years later offered full-band bravado and high-watt jams, launching Shakey Graves beyond a homegrown hero turned Friday Night Lights cult TV actor. Third proper full-length Can't Wake Up now completes his metamorphosis into an exceptional songwriter whose songs manifest into cinematic novellas. Characters living therein and their actions come to life in dreamy detail.
Delivering them all, the singer's voice floats like a passing cloud along blooming stretches of reverberated chords. Opener "Counting Sheep" comes punctuated by slinky twang guitar lullabies, but where his past work marinates in dusty folk-blues scorched by Texas summer heat, Can't Wake Up puts a high polish on panoramic rock and pop. Even so, beyond the Shins-ian raucousness of "Kids These Days," a wistful reverie of days spent wishing "to be somebody's wet dream, prom king, golden boy," Rose-Garcia's loping lo-fi quirk thrives and survives.
"Dining Alone" recalls Ray Davies at his most off-handedly tuneful, while some of the bright, crisp corners on back-to-back adjoiners "My Neighbor" and "Excuses" glisten Elliott Smith. Upbeat and unabashedly hooky, "Cops and Robbers" follows that pair all the way to the Spotify playlist of the moment. On "Mansion Door," his voice almost cracks as if from wired, restless nights before a booming reveal.
Don't sleep on Shakey Graves' rebirth.