The words you are reading right now are beginning to the end of any respect I've ever built up from writing any sort of review on this site.
I've crapped all over My Chemical Romance. I've trashed Taking Back Sunday. Twice. Straylight Run? No and no. So why does this, the most desperately obvious record on this list of faux emo pop get the best score? Well, hold those bricks you've painted in anarchy signs for just a minute.
It's not that this album is spectacular, or really amazing, but it's good at not trying too hard. Within the modern emo/pop genre, every record released that gets hyped in any way has a sense of urgency to it; love it now, because this trend is going to die. The sooner, well, the better.
But Chris Carraba is on a different level. He's opened for bands like U2; he did the emo pop thing with Further Seems Forever before they became a staple of teenage girls' record collections. When he started Dashboard Confessional, it was honest. In my eyes, The Swiss Army Romance is the best album Drive-Thru Records has ever released. But then, Dashboard got ridiculously popular, and butchered his own songs with a full band and releasing a worse than bad album in A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar. However, he seems to have put the past aside, and taken a little piece from everything and put them all in Dusk and Summer.
When this record is good, it's really good. It has a polite tip of the hat to the days of Further Seems Forever in songs like "Reason to Believe," while musically growing into the inevitable unanimous pop star that Carraba is almost bound to become, if he can't be classified as such already. The album holds probably some of the most aggressive songs Dashboard has released, notably in "Slow Decay," which is easily the standout on the disc.
I guess I really like this for the simple reason that it is almost a sequel to The Moon Is Down. Almost.
However, while the record is a very enjoyable summer pop disc, it's somewhat uneven. As Carraba is taking from some of the better parts of his musical past, he's also taking from some of the low points as well. A song will build up to a letdown; it almost seems like there's a voice somewhere that is keeping Chris in check from really letting loose. This is the ultimate downfall of the record. Instead of being a cohesive (albiet not to be taken seriously) album, it's got a musical lopsidedness that isn't quite there. However, when all is said and done, this is a vast improvement over the last record.
Unfortunately, the bad news doesn't stop there. The lyrics on the disc are pretty bad, and it seems like Chris just can't pen another song like "New Year's Project" or "Turpentine Chaser." I don't expect any sort of insightful or amazing lyrics from this guy; he's never delivered on that level and shouldn't be held to that standard. What I expect is a good storytelling style and a great voice. Unfortunately, both seem to be restrained, trying to maintain an appeal to a demographic that apparently just never grows up.
At this point, it seems like I have a laundry list of complaints for this disc. And I do...which is why I just don't get why I keep listening to it. I've always liked Carraba's voice, and while it was a little easier to relate to Dashboard when I was in high school, you can't always listen to super serious music (well, maybe you can, but I can't). I guess, when it all boils down to it, I had written off Carraba and the Dashboard project as lost for good after The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most, but he managed to surprise me and pack some nice, catchy hooks in an album that seems to be named for just about the right time to listen to it.
This record isn't going to blow your mind. If you've never liked Chris' projects, you're not going to like this album. There's a good chance even Further Seems Forever fans will be split. There are some tracks ("Heaven Here," "Don't Wait") that are just good to skip over. Buy this album? No. But maybe get your kid sister to burn it for you and give it a spin. You might just be surprised.