Dolorean, You Can’t Win

Todd Burns

By Todd Burns

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Critics often lazily label Dolorean alt-country, but the first moments of their third album should help to dispel that myth. Taking what sounds like a sampled drum pattern as its base, the quintet locks tightly into a groove reminiscent of an early-’70s soul group. Longtime fans of head honcho Al James and his compatriots'intersection of country and slowcore don't have too much to worry about, though. The title and refrain (“You Can't Win”) reveal them to be the Portland, Oregon, saddoes they are.

Soul-deadening slow-country for the dead of winter.

In fact, aside from the aforementioned “You Can't Win” and a few others which contain a healthy dose of organ, “We Winter Wrens,” with its languid string arrangement, and “You Don't Want to Know,” which seems to be played through the empty bottle of gin James left on the table last night, it's SOP for the boys. James sings about “the condemned men” mentioned in the liner note epigraph by novelist James Salter with the sort of empathy that only comes from lived experience, mulling over melancholy from every possible angle.

Sure, an entire album worth of songs like “In Love with the Doubt” and “What One Bottle Can Do” may be a slog in the summer, but when you're snug in the dead of winter, nothing else seems to make as much sense.