Taylor Goldsmith has several women on his mind throughout Dawes’ sumptuous sophomore effort Nothing Is Wrong, but only one makes him want to take it easy. On “Time Spent In Los Angeles,” Goldsmith spins a Tom Petty-esque yarn about a beguiling lady with “a special kind of sadness” and “a tragic set of charms” that reminds him of the noirish, sun-baked melancholy of home. Nothing Is Wrong has similar qualities, both embodying the unique emotional geography of L.A. (or an idea of L.A. informed by the famously dusky album cover for The Eagles’ Hotel California) and paying tribute to it from the weary vantage point of a traveling rock band. When Goldsmith sings that he wants to wrap this alluringly sorrowful woman in his arms, he’s really grasping for a version of Los Angeles that exists somewhere between reality and the romantically tumultuous setting of old Jackson Browne songs.
Nothing Is Wrong soulfully evokes the best of Browne and the rest of the ’70s Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter pop-rock pack, only occasionally slipping into straight-up homage, like on the Late For The Sky-aping “Moon In The Water.” (Browne himself steps by to lend backing vocals to “Fire Away.”) Like his heroes, Goldsmith is gifted at making his introspective laments about displacement and disillusion feel universal and even epic; “My Way Back Home” builds from a lonely tour diary to a bombastic guitar duel far more sweeping than anything on Dawes’ excellent, rootsier 2009 debut North Hills.
But for all the questioning, twentysomething angst of the lyrics, Nothing Is Wrong is first and foremost a car-stereo record, performed by a band that’s honed its snappily melodic folk-rock over the course of dozens of one-night stands the last few years. On one of the album’s most stirring tunes, Goldsmith trades vocals with drummer and brother Griffin and measure “how far we’ve come.” With Nothing Is Wrong, Dawes comes far, and appears to be only getting started.