Dolorean You Can't Win

The album cover for You Can’t Win, the fourth release from Portland’s Dolorean, is a photograph taken by filmmaker Gus Van Sant. It’s an apt collaboration, given that the band’s music would provide the perfect score for Van Sant’s trademark images of dreamily wispy clouds floating across vast desert skies. The title track opens the album and sets a hazy, languorous pace, the only lyrics provided by the song’s somewhat depressing, though oddly reassuring, title. There’s a prettiness amongst these songs of regret (all of which were written by guitarist and lead singer Al James), a sleepy kind of beauty that recalls the kind of exquisite sadness most recently associated with one-time Portland resident Elliott Smith. Though much of You Can’t Win has early to mid-’70s Neil Young as its most obvious musical touchstone, songs such as "My Still Life” and "Beachcomber Blues,” in particular, evoke the resigned melancholy that informed Beck’s Sea Change. The hushed intimacy of the music, however, is in contrast to James’s sharply observed lyrics, especially on the brilliant and impossibly sad album highlight "What One Bottle Can Do.” This is a fantastic record. (Yep Roc)