The most we have gotten from Dashboard Confessional since 2009 are a couple of singles and two EPs; one of which was split with pop-punk band, New Found Glory. Chris Carrabba, founder, guitarist, and lead singer of Dashboard Confessional, will be turning 43 this year, but as we know from other emo, alternative rockers (i.e. Billie Joe Armstrong), the music only gets better with age. This is the seventh studio album by the band, and the anticipation for it is through the roof. Since Carrabba announced in November that the new album will be released on Feb. 9, fans have been eagerly sitting by, waiting to hear it. Over here at The Aquarian, our sitting by and waiting was cut short, as an album advance came our way.
Crooked Shadows is a nine-track album released by rock music label, Fueled By Ramen. This is Dashboard’s first time working with this record label, and if Fueled By Ramen’s list of artists wasn’t enough to make you believe in them (All Time Low, Panic! At The Disco, Twenty One Pilots…just to name a few), this album will. Each song furthers my adoration for the band, the label, and Carrabba himself. It’s melodic, powerful, topical, and a letter to everyone who has felt that they don’t fit into society, in school, in the state of the country, or just have yet to find their place in the world.
The first song we got to hear from the new album was the first single, “We Fight.” It’s an influential, commanding song that demands to be heard. The song alone produces enough strength to pick anyone up and create a community; so you can only imagine what the album sounds and feels like as a whole. “I’m not an angel/But I’m willing to watch over you,” Carrabba sings, fading into the chorus of the second track off Crooked Shadows. That song, “Catch You,” makes me nostalgic for a time where Yellowcard and Blink-182 were getting their well-deserved time on mainstream radio. Carrabba’s voice could not be any better on this track, it’s raspy and deep as he sings with a passion that works hand-in-hand with the perfectly timed drumming by Chris Kamrada, heard clearly throughout the song.
The acoustic path taken on “Heartbeat Here” sums up everything great about Dashboard Confessional. The lyrics are simple and romantic; talking about marriage, passion, commitment, and how one feels while being bonded to someone you are so in love with. I had goosebumps listening to the song, for the melodic echo of Carrabba’s voice, and the pure sensation of love throughout it is undeniably lovely. It’s almost strange to hear the youthful, EDM laced track “Belong” follow it. The lyrics, “So let’s just enjoy the ride/We can go wherever the road decides,” quickly flows into the electronic beats that, although fit the song well, don’t necessarily fit in with what I associate with Dashboard Confessional. Songs such as “We Fight,” “Crooked Shadows,” and “Heartbeat Here” fit the band’s voice stylistically, but times do change.
It’s been eight years since Alter the Ending, which means eight years since critics felt Dashboard Confessional had found their mature sound. Sure, Alter the Ending was more mature than their previous albums, but every band goes through periods of growing up between the writing and recording processes of new songs and albums. What critics didn’t know then was that Dashboard would grow, expand, and mold into a band that, by 2018, would keep its core passion and voice, but still be able to dive headfirst into a modern, even more mature sound. It’s hard to expect that, especially with such a large gap between releases, but it was a wait that was worth every agonizing second and more — I can promise you that.