Ah, the sound of Fender Telecaster singing out of a clean channeled amp: The twanging, mellow tone instantly summons a long-lost endless summer of West Coast folk rock and peaceful, easy feelings. Dawes may insist that they want to outgrow the narrative that they’re a product of those Laurel Canyon influences — “It borders on ridiculous. We have never lived in [Laurel Canyon] — I don’t think I’ve driven through, even, for years,” singer Taylor Goldsmith complained in the most recent American Songwriter. But their third album, tellingly titled Stories Don’t End, doesn’t quite shed the sound that ties them to that era, which turns out to be a good thing.
Full of irresistible harmonies, clear-ringing guitar solos and astute lyrical self-awareness, Stories Don’t End serves as a graceful evolution from 2009′s debut North Hills and 2011′s Nothing Is Wrong. The album offers a more optimistic, or at least hopeful, tenor that you can hear most clearly in “Someone Will” and “Most People,” as well as the Blake Mills cover “Hey Lover.” Musically, the upbeat tracks like lead single “From a Window Seat” move with a renewed sense of purpose, exemplified here through curt piano chords and jumpy bass riffs. Whether or not Dawes has finally accepted its cozy SoCal-revivalist label, Stories Don’t End feels like the work of a band embracing its strengths while trying to assert its continued growth.