Can’t Wake Up
Dualtone Music Group, Inc. · April 04, 2018
A pleasant enough collection of energetic and thoughtful songs, Shakey Graves’ Can’t Wake Up is okay, and will probably be put into my collection of things to listen to in the background while doing homework. It’s the perfect album if you want to focus on something that isn’t the album, so it’s not necessarily the most interesting or fresh thing you’ve heard in a while. Though all the songs start to blend together after a while and sound the same, it isn’t really that bad, and was an agreeable album to have on in the background of a day where I wasn’t doing anything else more interesting.
Born Alejandro Rose-Garcia, Shakey Graves got his stage name from his friends when they gave each other “Indian guide names” at a music festival in 2007. Graves has an impressive track record of involvement with musicians like Edward Sharpe and Mumford & Sons, as well as TV show appearances before entering the world of music. His fifth album, released three years after his last, is an assortment of songs of the Americana genre for which he has gained recognition.
I hadn’t heard of Shakey Graves until the release of this album. Given it was introduced to me by an eye-catching banner on my Spotify homepage, I was hoping to be blown away by an introspective album by a new artist I could get really into. With those expectations, I was a bit disappointed; the album didn’t sound that different from a lot of other music where a dude with a guitar sings about what it would be like to have a more interesting life. This is particularly exemplified in the song ‘Dining Alone,’ whose tired chorus is “I wonder what it’s like to fly a plane / To meet a girl on a Friday night / And wake up next to her on Saturday / To swim across the ocean blue / To walk a mile upon the moon…But it’s getting late, this restaurant is closing / I guess I’d better go.” It’s pretty much the most boring description of an existential crisis ever.
If I had gone in with the expectations of hearing a dude with a guitar singing about what it would be like to have a more interesting life, then I’d probably be a bit more impressed, because some of the tracks were arguably more innovative than others doing the same type of music as Graves.
If there was one song from the album I might actually listen to again, it would be ‘Aibohphobia.’ It starts out with a tune that sounds like the accompaniment of Marx Brothers-era silent slapstick comedy, and it continues through the entire song, mixing with his usual instrumentals and contemporary vocal style. There was one other song that stood out to me after listening to the whole album, which was the opener ‘Counting Sheep.’ However, I think I only liked it for nostalgic reasons because it sounded like a lot of the music I listened to at the beginning of high school (back when everyone was starting to act too cool for mainstream music). ‘Counting Sheep,’ like most of the tracks on the album, was generic indie-dude music. It’s good, but nothing special.
Overall, I wanted to like the album, but I really just couldn’t. He seems like a nice enough guy; his hometown mayor even proclaimed February 9 “Shakey Graves Day”, where all Graves’ albums are available at an accessible pay-as-you-want rate on Bandcamp. He seems like a down to earth artist who is just trying to make relatable music, but it just comes across as a little too mundane in the process. It wasn’t a bad album, but it wasn’t a great one. I would listen to it again if I needed a soundtrack to my late night studying; if I was at a friend’s house and they put on the album, I would be polite and tell them “Nice choice!” But other than that, the album seems like an attempt at being approachable that ended up just being boring, coming across as pleasant at best.