After a nine-year hiatus, Dashboard Confessional are back with their seventh studio album, Crooked Shadows. While sometimes resurrections such as this can have fans on the edge of their seat, anticipating either a successful comeback or a colossal fail, with the arrival of Crooked Shadows, they can breathe a sigh of relief.
Sure, this album lacks an anthemic crowd pleaser like their 2003 hit "Hands Down" and it doesn't really have a ballad that speaks to us quite like "Stolen" did in 2006, but Crooked Shadows offers a satisfying balance between pop, alt-rock and Dashboard's familiar approach to intimate storytelling.
Crooked Shadows starts strong with "We Fight," a song about sticking firm to what you believe in — a necessary message in today's political climate. This track, while clean and reflective of what rock is sounding like today, also offers an air of familiarity as vocalist Chris Carrabba reaches his typical place somewhere between singing and screaming. Within the first few seconds of "We Fight," we know that even after all this time, Dashboard still remember their roots.
Midway through, however, the album looses its way. "Belong," and the album's title track sound over-produced and veer into bubblegum pop territory. "Belong" is such a digitized track that it feels confusing and out of place. Especially when Carrabba sings, "We got the radio pumpin' jams," it's apparent that Dashboard are attempting to appeal to an audience that weren't listening to them in 2003 — probably because that audience wasn't even born yet.
Crooked Shadows finds its way again in the final two tracks. "Be Alright," while still rich with pop undertones, doesn't rely as heavily on digitized backtracks or synth melodies. "Just What to Say," the album's last track, is a textbook ballad — soft guitar, harmonizing vocals from guest Chrissy Costanza, and self-deprecating lyrics. Amidst an album that appears to be going through a slight identity crisis, "Just What to Say" is raw and soothing, proving that Dashboard are at their best when stripped-down, peeling back Carrabba's layers and exposing him as the artist that he is.
It was always going to be tough for Dashboard Confessional to repeat what they were, but while maybe Crooked Shadows doesn't hit the heights that A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar did in 2003, it's still a welcome return. (Dine Alone)