In an interview with the New York Times, Dashboard Confessional lead vocalist and primary songwriter Chris Carraba lamented and rejected the misogyny that permeated the pop-punk and emo scene that was so prominent in the Noughties. Reflecting on the accusations about Brand New’s Jesse Lahey, the over-sexualisation of women within emo lyrics and the lack of female representation in the industry, Carraba said he was troubled by the allegations of sexual misconduct: 'I think that nobody knows how to come to grips with the idea that our scene was a place that something like this could happen.' Carraba is a lone, but encouraging, voice in the typically male-dominant sphere of emo pop-punk – and one that is needed more than ever.
When news emerged of a new Dashboard album a few months ago, the band's fandom was awash with speculation, wondering if it would sound like the 'old' DC or if it would be a new genre entirely. Carraba’s particular skillset in creating cinematic ballads is not lost on their eighth album Crooked Shadows, which is a perfect mix of old and new DC. The album is rife with many an acoustic guitar number, but is well-balanced with the band’s loveable pop-rock and piercing lyrics – also managing to incorporate a host of external genres that bridge the gap between classic and new, reinvented Dashboard.
DC were always a refreshing band amidst the pop-punk and emo scene that was populated by the likes of Fall Out Boy, Jack’s Mannequin, Jimmy Eat World and countless others. The lyrics weren’t always so blatantly female-objectifying, but the ways in which women were reduced to nothing more than a concept for a decent lyric became normalised over time: “I’m just a notch in your bedpost, but you’re just a line in a song” are Pete Wentz’s lyrics in ‘Sugar We’re Goin’ Down’. Carraba’s marriage to his longtime wife permeate the themes of Crooked Shadows and, as the NYT interview mentions, Carraba sings not of a solitary “I” in the new album, but of a “we”.
“We find a way in, and we find a way out,” he sings on the album’s opening track ‘We Fight’. “I think of the mess we made as we walk to the corner,” he laments on the aptly-named ‘About Us’. On the acoustic rock number and standout track ‘Heartbeat Here’, the 42-year-old frontman croons: “We found our way past our youthful fears and fought our way through the pain and tears,”. Carraba has name-dropped the likes of indie-folk pioneers and songwriters Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker when he pens new material. It’s a world quite far apart from the universe that Dashboard are usually associated with, but it is a stimulating change. Carraba is not afraid to step onto new terrain, either, with the more pop-oriented and immensely catchy ‘Belong’ that incorporates a hooky synth for a more upbeat and sunny track.
All in all, Crooked Shadows is where new and old Dashboard meet amicably. It is the most revitalising DC album to date. Emo as a genre may well be outdated – along with their pop-punk contemporaries – but Dashboard’s newest LP incorporates factors from contemporary genres to make their brand of acoustic pop-rock as relevant as it ever was.