“Bodyguard,” the first song on Dawn Landes‘ latest album, was written as a reaction to her Brooklyn apartment being burglarized. The ensuing theft saw a hard drive, containing the only copy of her ready- to- go second album, vanish. “I never looked back or tried to recreate those songs, never played them, nothing. I just started over from scratch,” she says.
The album “Fireproof” is the fruit of that labor. The title, obviously, suggests both vulnerability and indestructibility: I’m sure Ms. Landes is much more protective of all the things in her life following her home invasion. “Now you know what you want/ You want what you had/ But you can’t have that/ You can’t go back,” she sings in “Private Little Hell.” A sad lesson learned, indeed.
The songs that comprise “Fireproof” are reminiscent to me both of Athens, GA band Azure Ray, and of Sub Pop recording artist and Seattle native Rosie Thomas (that’s to say only that they all seem to synthesize the same influences). Lyrically, I’m not always with her– “La la la la Life’s a gag/ La la la la You’re a fag” doesn’t exactly have the air of high- mindedness, though it’s probably simply an inside joke– but musically, color me impressed. Ms. Landes isn’t reinventing the wheel here, yet she seems right in her wheelhouse when it comes to some of the more offbeat Waits-ian instrumentation offered here (optigan, banjo, toy piano).
And at the end of the day, who can argue with the lines, “When it’s hard to breathe in the city/ It’s easier to drink”? Not I, said the fly (drunkenly).
All in all, I’m glad this album came across my desk. Not just for me, but for my wife– who I only think agreed to marry me as a thanks for introducing her to Azure Ray and to Ms. Chan (Cat Power) Marshall. This is a good one to have on while cooking dinner, with a bottle of Biodynamic Oregon Pinot open next to the stove. Be sure to look out for the hidden Tom Petty cover (“I Won’t Back Down,” at the end of album closer “You Alone”), and, finally, be sure to heed “Fireproof”‘s cautionary tale– that while, of course, you should look out for and guard steadfastly what’s most important to you, everything ultimately is just like what Bob Dylan once said: “It’s not the experience that matters, it’s the attitude towards the experience.”
Available on Cooking Vinyl USA
Dawn Landes on Myspace
Words by Lee Henderson