Shame on me for just discovering the music of Dolorean. The Portland, Oregon based band has been releasing music since 2003 and are back after a nearly four year hiatus with a masterpiece in "The Unfazed". It's all here, from sweet melodies and harmonies to the tremendous lyrics of Al James, this album is not to be missed, especially if folk and Americana-tinged rock is your thing.
Many of the songs on "The Unfazed" share the theme of the end of a relationship, and the honesty in James' lyrics is easily relatable to anyone who has been through a break-up. Opener "Thinskinned" sets the tone for the album, thematically and musically. There aren't many uptempo songs to be found here, but this is not a slow, somber album to drown your sorrows in either. Dolorean's music comes from an acoustic base, with piano, guitar, bass and drums augmented at times by violin and other strings. In "Thinskinned", James describes the battles of his relationship, admitting "I'm not such a bad guy, I'm just a little thinskinned", while asking for compromise from his woman for her imperfections as well. But he sees the futile state of the relationship when he sings, "I can't believe it would be better, if I was hard as nails and you were tough as leather."
On "Country Clutter", James is joined by Mara Lee Miller on vocals, as he sends a final kiss-off to his ex-lover. Over a chorus of soothing "ooohs", he sings "I have moved out, packed up my shit/If you find anything I left behind, well you can have it/Let it clutter up your life, the way you cluttered up mine."
James is numb to his situation on the title track, name checking the items he is unfazed by at this point including pain, love, debts, dreams and "living...until I die." "Fools Gold Ring" serves as an apology for not giving his all and his culpability in a faltering relationship.
By the album's final third, however, James is moving on from the pain and bitterness of his broken situation and opening himself up to the possibility of trying it again, as most of us do. "If I Find Love" couldn't be a more self-explanatory title, as he proclaims his heart is still strong vowing "If I find love I won't let go." He's then inspired by the beauty of nature on the slow building "These Slopes Give Me Hope" before "The Unfazed" comes to its glorious conclusion.
James' journey ends with "How Is It", unquestionably one of the most gorgeous songs you're likely to hear in 2011. Despite all the previous struggles and heartbreak, James sits in wonderment at the feeling of falling in love again asking, "How is it we have just known of each other/And we talk like old friends and we kiss like young lovers/And we have nowhere to stand except next to one another" before a sweet sighing chorus takes over. It's a beautifully written lyric summing up the amazement we feel at new love and ends the album on a high note emotionally.
"The Unfazed" was released in the U.S. January 18, 2010 on Partisan Records.