A. Savage: Thawing Dawn

Music Reviews A. Savage
A. Savage: Thawing Dawn

What does an album made by a person in love sound like? The introspective, absorbing Thawing Dawn serves as the latest answer to that question. Best known as co-frontman of frenetic, rock outfit Parquet Courts, Andrew Savage has a new moniker (the very nudge-wink, A. Savage), a new girlfriend and a new album—his solo debut. Departing from the angular, New York-influenced sound of his other band, Savage uses Dawn to explore love from the inside—reflecting on it as it’s happening instead of once it’s gone—while also leaning in to his Texas roots.

“There’s a local tavern comfort you evoke/There’s a point to life nestled in your eyes when you’re laughing at all my jokes,” Savage sings at the top of “Phantom Limbo,” the album’s most traditional love song. With a country-western feel as worn as the boots Savage is sporting on the album cover, it’s one of several tracks that hit the near-impossible sweet spot of full-bodied romance with none of the sap. The album is rife with dreamy sentiments that also respect the complexity of human feeling. Savage makes love feel real.

Needless to say, he’s an incredibly gifted lyricist—even referring to himself as “talented with words” during the hoe-down, galloping stomp of “Winter In The South”—and wisely gives his verse room to breathe. “Wild, Wild, Wild Horses,” provides the best example of this, suspending some of Savage’s most swoon-worthy lines within a gentle drone and metronomic tick—like the way late-afternoon sun can illuminate the fuzzy specks of dust that hang in still air. On “Untitled,” long, sustained organ notes are the sole musical accompaniment to his most impassioned vocals. Delivered within a distant haze, each prophetic word rings out, making Savage sound like an all-knowing Greek chorus. “Ladies From Houston,” a seven-minute, languid dirge that floats from room to room, conversation to conversation, has more instrumentation—shuffling drums, some distorted guitars—but all are used sparingly. “I’ve got a full ring of keys again” he repeats over and over, pleading significance. What that significance is exactly, I can’t claim to know. Savage is much smarter than me—and probably most of you.

He may be helplessly in love, but there’s still plenty of the acerbic bite his other band has become known for. Musically, it’s the power-pop bounce of “Eyeballs” that delineates it as “The Track Most Likely To Be On A Parquet Courts Album,” but it’s the opening cut, “Buffalo Calf Road Woman,” that cuts to the quick. A bruising ode to the plight of Native Americans that would make even the most pissed-off version of Neil Young nod in approval, mentions of Sitting Bull and Custer mingle with doozies like “What guns and forced relocation can’t do/Alcohol and isolation will.” Wrapped up in starry steel pedal and an easy gait, its grievous message goes down disconcertingly easy—the Americana production the only thing linking it to the rest of the album.

The disparate parts all come together for the final and title track—a multi-part structure anchored by Onyeabor keyboards and the catchiest melody of the album. “Most religion, is as far from faith/As the sun is from the shadows it shapes/I can hardly say for certain if I’m trapped or escaped when I’m away from you,” he sings, slipping in two thought-bombs you’ll still be mulling over long after you stop whistling the hook. In a truly dauntless move, he name drops the album in the final couplet, a most satisfying conclusion to an impressive and expansive album—a different side of a very talented artist.

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