Modern music seems to be more and more about crossovers — how do artists combine genres, and how do those new and unique combinations serve to revitalize seemingly defunct subsets of the musical sphere? It’s been a tough century for emos so far — a soaring, climactic decade at the turn of the 2000s filled with flourishing, aggressively heartfelt releases abruptly followed by a plague of disbanding artists fading into history. Since then, the genre has grown several different limbs, including, but not limited to, alternative pop, emo self-made Soundcloud artists and softened emo rock.
Now, I’m all for music changing with the times, but even when an artist hasn’t been off the map for eight years, there’s inevitably going to be some comparison between the old and the new. The old Dashboard Confessional built its empire on early 2000s “emo acoustic punk,” embracing the slowed down guitar chords that characterized the era. Their latest release Crooked Shadows is an effort to show off a more grown-up version of that raw emotion to the world; however, because of the huge gap that exists between the last release and this one, the contrast is more of a gulf than a seamless transition between styles. If you were to listen to Dashboard Confessional’s discography in order of release, you’d definitely be able to tell when the hiatus happened.
Crooked Shadows starts plainly enough with “We Fight,” a track that gradually moves from a somewhat bland ticking beat to a rousing chorus. First and foremost, lead singer Chris Carrabba’s voice has lost the gentle, tender vulnerability embodied by old tracks such as Dusk and Summer’s “Stolen,” instead adopting a gritty aggressiveness that is reminiscent of a crunchier, more roughed up OneRepublic.
Sadly, Crooked Shadows’s biggest disappointment was also what I’d been most excited for — the collaboration with Lindsey Stirling. Stirling’s unique calling card is how she manages to twist classical violin into producing all kinds of new, fiercely badass sounds. However, “Open My Eyes” is sorely lacking in the balanced intensity and energy that I’ve come to expect from music associated with Stirling. The result is an appallingly lukewarm track that sounds like a pop song with a violin added in — perhaps a sad attempt at imitating Yellowcard’s violin infused style — rather than an effort to create something that would truly stand the test of time.
Albums are statements. They’re even more significant when they bookend hiatuses. Even when artists completely change their styles, at their core, musical releases are still an extension of the creator’s character. The problem with Crooked Shadows is that Dashboard Confessional’s character doesn’t seem to be coming through. Moreover, it seems to be trying to fit into a niche that’s already dominated by groups such as Paramore, Fall Out Boy and Twenty One Pilots.
What’s the verdict? Stop trying to make emo happen — it’s not going to happen!