Shakey Graves
Can't Wake Up


4.7
superb

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
May 6th, 2018 | 68 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Evocative, beautiful, and at times bizarre: ladies and gentlemen, the definitive Shakey Graves album.

Can’t Wake Up, the aptly-titled fifth record from Alejandro Rose-Garcia (Shakey Graves), feels like the pinnacle of everything the project has been building towards since its under-the-radar inception in 2011. The laid back, stripped down folk vibe of And The War Came remains, only taking a turn for the atmospheric – this eerie vibe that envelopes the entire album like fog hanging over a city street at night. It is a foreboding, somewhat unsettling experience that also feels right at home, and the organically dark evolution in sound will have followers of Shakey Graves smiling ear to ear.

The groundwork for Can’t Wake Up’s mysterious shroud is laid early with the groovy, spooky ‘Counting Sheep’, a song with undeniable staying power that feels like it is trapped between realms – in one world grounded by earthly acoustics and pitter-pat drums, in the other suspended mid-air by ghastly, apparition-like ooh’s. The sound of the song reflects the album’s cover art, leading one to envision nights in dark alleys under a crescent moon, walking alone alongside the soft yellowish glow of the street lamps. In short, it’s both beautiful and kind of haunting. As the record moves into ‘Kids These Days’ and ‘Climb On The Cross’, there’s an apparent transition from the Americana of previous records to more of an indie-rock approach, with the former in particular adopting a very upbeat, percussion-driven melody. While the pristine acoustic folk of past outings also remains evident throughout (‘Dining Alone’ is downright breathtaking), Rose-Garcia melds the styles together in a fashion that only additionally facilitates its vast, effortless flow. Songs such as ‘Excuses’ and ‘Mansion Door’ weave in and out of hushed, bare bones folk and propulsive, showy rock grooves – a sign that everything has truly come together for the progression of Shakey Graves.

These reasons alone are not what make Can’t Wake Up such a fitting magnum opus, however. Sure, the project espouses a darker brand this time around, but it’s the vocal efforts of Rose-Garcia that truly affix this album to a state of persistent excellence. In the past he has always exhibited multiple talents, but generally stayed the course – opting to remain inbounds for what folk vocalists should be. Here, there’s a rougher edge and a willingness to embrace the direction of his music. Whatever country-like twang helped to secure And The War Came’s Americana status has been replaced with a deeper, more thoughtful and introspective tone residing somewhere between Elliott Smith and Brand New. There’s also a bluesy slant in his delivery, giving the vocal approach across Can’t Wake Up a unique flair that fits right in to the album’s swaying, staggering means of progression.

One trait that can’t be lost among all of the improvements to Shakey Graves’ sound is the thematic focus. This record is more unified than anything the project has put forth, and it is directly attributable to the increased emphasis that Rose-Garcia places on album subtleties. What I mean by this is the echoed conversations that fade ‘My Neighbor’ out; the vintage, cartoonish jingle that opens ‘Aibohphobia’ before it closes out to a peculiar, somewhat discordant blend of acoustic picking and high-pitched vocals; the morning birds that announce ‘Foot of Your Bed’; or even the inclusion of a track titled ‘Big Bad Wolf’ on an album that commences with ‘Counting Sheep.’ It’s these strange little quirks that lend Can’t Wake Up its identity as more than just a well-crafted indie-folk outing. Piecemeal, they may seem insignificant – but together they are what make this whole experience so damn tangible. It’s what makes Can’t Wake Up feel ambitious by comparison to Shakey Graves’ other works. Alejandro might sing it best on ‘Big Bad Wolf’ when he croons, “ but the truth is I am just someone who's hungry…let me eat.”

Between the obvious stylistic growth of Shakey Graves and Rose-Garcia’s ramped up creative appetite, Can’t Wake Up presents itself as the definitive album of the project’s discography. It masters its own atmosphere, swelling with confidence at each and every turn while inviting all who listen to join in. It only gets stronger as it goes on, too, with the star-lit ‘Backseat Driver’ proving to be one of the most beautiful, shimmering indie rock moments of 2018. Even the off kilter, to-and-fro hollow taps that provide the percussive bassline to the curtain-closing ‘Tin Man’ feel like an essential culmination of the subtle twists and turns strategically placed throughout the album. It’s a beautiful, weird album that only gathers steam while managing to be both simple and complex at the same time. Can’t Wake Up is a difficult album to qualify for all these reasons, but they all result in a level of intrigue that simply can’t be manufactured. No matter what, you’ll find yourself wanting more.




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user ratings (34)
Chart.
3.7
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
May 6th 2018


26350 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

Had to write something for this. Might end up becoming one of my favorite records of 2018 in time.

Digging: William Ryan Key - Thirteen

bgillesp
May 6th 2018


4527 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh sweet! I thought this was awesome on first listen but definitely will jam more. Killer review, too

Digging: Nekrogoblikon - Welcome to Bonkers

Gyromania
May 6th 2018


24726 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Wicked album art

tacos n stuff
May 6th 2018


3073 Comments


woah new shakey graves, yes plzz

solongatlast
May 6th 2018


315 Comments


And The War Came was kinda disappointing for me. Is this better?

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 6th 2018


26350 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

I like it better. Not that And The War Came was poor, I just prefer the overall style of this. This is more along the lines of indie-folk/rock and the creepy vibe at times just jives with me.

SandwichBubble
May 6th 2018


6555 Comments


Didn't like And The War Came too much either. Though, I have a feeling the 2.5 I gave it is a bit too harsh.

Digging: Intersystems - Number One

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 6th 2018


26350 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

Honestly if you listen to the embedded track that's a decent representation of the album and is one of its better tracks.

AsleepInTheBack
May 7th 2018


5646 Comments


that album art is gorgeous

ScuroFantasma
Staff Reviewer
May 7th 2018


11389 Comments


That album art makes me want to jam this right fucking now. Nice writing too Sowing, sounds like some cool stuff.

Digging: Thy Dying Light - Forgotten By Time

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 7th 2018


26350 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

Thanks Scuro. Let me know what ya'll think if you get a chance to listen. The album is super consistent, but my three early favorites are Dining Alone, Big Bad Wolf, and Counting Sheep - probably in that order.

Ashen
May 7th 2018


1436 Comments


Shakey graves on the front page of sputnik. My eyes do not betray me.

I hardly knew this guy had fans outside of my piss stained brick walled corner of atx.

Edit: didn't realize both of his previous albums also have reviews. cool.

Nice work, sowing.

IAMERROR
May 7th 2018


280 Comments


This album slays!

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 7th 2018


26350 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

It really does! Between that and the insanely cool artwork I'm actually a little surprised this isn't making a bigger splash...

ShadowRemains
May 7th 2018


24978 Comments


is sowing's avatar supposed to be xerneas

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 7th 2018


26350 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

Nah album art for the new All The Luck In The World

Gyromania
May 7th 2018


24726 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The track you posted is ridiculously good

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 7th 2018


26350 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

Yeah man. It's my third favorite so there's possibly still room to find songs you like even better. I'm totally infatuated.

Sunnyvale
May 7th 2018


789 Comments


Listening now, this is pretty awesome stuff.

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 7th 2018


26350 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

Glad to hear you liking it. It gets better with every listen in my opinion. At first some of the tracks seem a little muddled but time brings out their quirks and intracacies. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if this turns into another one of my 5's. It's just not the kind of album that slaps you in the face; it sinks in.



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