Dave Matthews Band, Away From The World | Album Review
‘Away from the World’ is an enjoyable album by Dave Matthews Band. There is excellent musicianship shown throughout the effort.
Dave Matthews Band returns with its latest album, Away from the World. Away from the World finds saxophonist Jeff Coffin fully taking over woodwind duties from the late LeRoi Moore. The rest of the band remains intact. Very much a Dave Matthews Band album, the best material appears at the forefront of the album, while the last couple of songs are hampered by length. All in all, it’s solid and enjoyable.
Standout “Broken Things” opens the effort with a signature guitar riff, which reappears throughout the song. The sound can be described as ‘rich’ given the orchestration of the horns at the beginning. Matthews gives a strong vocal performance, particularly highlighted by his falsetto on this cut. The surrounding vocal production is excellent. His vocals shine particularly well on the chorus. Other highlights of include a great violin solo by Boyd Tinsley and exceptional production.
“Belly Belly Nice” doesn’t lose any steam, opening with a funky horn riff and a rhythmic groove courtesy of funky guitars. Matthews executes his vocals playfully, exhibiting the utmost clarity. Once again, the horn orchestrations stand out with Tinsley and Coffin delivering compelling solos. A high point is the intense rhythmic run at the end.
“Mercy” serves as the first single, opening more subtly than previous cuts. Acoustic guitar plays a driving, albeit restrained rhythm, with lower intensity. The tempo is slower and even Matthews’ vocals reflect a softer approach. The songwriting is fine, particularly the chorus.
“Mercy will we overcome this? One by one could we turn it around/ Carry on a little bit longer/while I try to get you what you need.”
The chorus has some variation, eliminating sameness. Horn orchestrations continue to shine, subtly spread throughout the cut. There’s plenty of instrumental space used at the end, allowing “Mercy” to unwind gracefully.
“Gaucho” opens with a busy guitar riff, changing the meter from four to six. Eliminating predictability, the meter switches from six to standard 4/4 on the chorus. A highlight is when the horns accentuate the triplets during the 6/8 meter. Other highlights include vamping and the use of children’s vocals.
“Sweet” uses a ukulele at the beginning, a sound, change of timbre. The cut features driving rhythms, characteristic of the band. Matthews’ vocals are legato, noted for tender treatment here. Eventually, drums enter, changing the pace, which began to feel static. “Sweet” is above average, but falls short of the glory of earlier cuts.
“The Riff” is a bit of a bore, doing a bit too much of the same thing. Based on riffs, it opens with a subtle riff panned to the left, with ample rhythmic intensity and various sounds and ideas. Still, it’s a tier below the best. “Belly Full” is a better, even given its brevity. Still, it’s a ‘B’ as opposed to an ‘A.’
“If Only” and “Rooftops” redirect lost momentum. “If Only” features organ at the beginning. It is characterized by an excellent harmonic progression. Rhythm continues to dominate. The overall production possesses cleanliness. If anything bogs down the record, it’s some monotonous moments. “Rooftops” opens with electric guitar driven riffs. The cut possesses a heavy, rock chorus. By the conclusion, frenzy has been achieved. “Rooftops” differentiates itself from previous cuts.
The biggest detractor on “Snow Outside” is length, running north of six minutes. Closer “Drunken Soldier” suffers a similar fate, just missing the ten-minute mark. The final two songs work better in a live setting as opposed to the studio setting. Regardless, “Drunken Soldier” is up-tempo, features athletic, minimalist riffs, and ecstatic vocals from Matthews. The shift to a more relaxed, soulful vibe towards the end is clever.
Overall, Away from the World is an enjoyable album by Dave Matthews Band. There is excellent musicianship shown throughout the effort, even when things may grow too indulgent in length. The songwriting is strong for the most part and the production solid. This isn’t the best album of the year per se, but it is a nice addition to any rock collection.
Gems: “Broken Things,” “Belly Belly Nice,” “Mercy,” “Guacho” & “Rooftops”