Dolorean — You Can’t Win (2007)

If there is a defeatist attitude underlining You Can’t Win, it’s easy to miss. The Portland, Ore. band’s breezy folk rock–reminiscent of the Band or Neil Young–drifts along on bright melodies and frontman Al James’ tender voice.

But the lyrics betray sunken hopes, capsized relationships and scuttled dreams. The hypnotic opener has the band–in full harmony–repeating the album title over a growing bed of lush instrumentation. “Beachcomber Blues” evokes the image of an aimless, shuffling mediation by the sea. And despite James’ pretty vocal part, “Buffalo Gal” packs uneasiness into benign lyrics.

But the record hinges on “My Still Life,” the final track. James lists the seemingly mundane aspects of his day to a loved one, but the delivery suggests something better–he’s fine with what he’s been given. You Can’t Win is a disarmingly pleasant album, and is a great aural soundtrack for the shift from winter to spring.

–jp

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