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Dashboard Confessional – Dusk and Summer

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Melody Bot, Jun 27, 2016.

  1. Melody Bot

    Your friendly little forum bot. Staff Member

    This article has been imported from for discussion. All of the forum rules still apply.

    Dusk and Summer is my favorite Dashboard Confessional album. How’s that for a contrarian statement? For most fans of Dashboard, Dusk tends to occupy the lower rungs of discography rankings—if not the very bottom slot. There are obvious reasons for this lowly reputation, and they happen to correspond with the various groups of Chris Carrabba fans that exist out in the wild. The first group of fans is the “there from the beginning” group. These people were listening when Carrabba first arrived on the scene and released The Swiss Army Romance (2000) and The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most (2001). Fans in this group are incredibly attached to the stripped-down acoustic arrangements and heart-on-the-sleeve angst of those first two records. They cite Swiss Army and Places as foundational albums in the emo and pop-punk movements, label them as classics, and point to Carrabba going full-band (on 2003’s A Mark, A Mission, a Brand, a Scar) as the moment where everything went to hell.

    The second group of Carrabba fans are the people who prefer his post-hardcore band Further Seems Forever. These people aren’t really relevant to the Dashboard ranking discussion, though most would probably let you know that Dusk and Summer is overproduced sellout shite. The third group of fans is made up of people who actually like Carrabba’s full-band sound, but prefer A Mark and 2009’s Butch Walker-produced Alter the Ending to the poppier Dusk. There might even be a fourth, very small group that likes Carrabba’s post-Dashboard folk-rock group, Twin Forks, more than anything he did in the 2000s. (As far as I know, there is no group that would point to 2007’s substandard The Shade of Poison Trees as Carrabba’s finest hour.)

    All of these groups of fans tend to have one thing in common when it comes to ranking Carrabba’s work: they think Dusk and Summer is largely mainstream trash, overproduced to the extreme and featuring songs that lack the soul and ache of his previous music. I have heard this argument so many times from so many fans of Carrabba’s music that I spent a good chunk of the past 10 years internalizing it. Though Dusk has long been the Dashboard album I had the clearest personal connection to, I’ve rarely actually identified it as my favorite. That title would go to Alter the Ending—which, for the record, I still stand by as Carrabba’s “best” work. But erase that album from existence and I’d just lose one of the last decade’s greatest and most unabashedly massive pop-rock records. Erase Dusk and Summer and I’d lose a big, big piece of my past.

    Let’s start at the beginning: it’s the middle of the summer of 2006 and I’ve just handed Dusk and Summer to my brother, in CD format, for his 21st birthday. I was on a music pirating hiatus at this point in my life, because I’d recently gotten two awful computer viruses within four months of each other—both requiring a complete reformatting of my hard drive. (I’m sure my parents didn’t appreciate this, since the computer in question was not mine, but the “family computer.”) So it’s July 2nd and Dusk and Summer has officially been out for the better part of a week, but I haven’t heard it yet. Five days are not a long time to wait to hear an album, but it’s an eternity when you’re talking about one of your favorite bands and when the record in question seems like it’s destined to be the perfect summer soundtrack. The fact that this album contained a duet with Adam Duritz (of Counting Crows fame) was even more exciting, and almost made me want to tear off the shrink-wrap and give my brother something else for his birthday.

    A lot of people were disappointed with how slick Dusk and Summer sounded, but for me, no part of this album failed to live up to expectations. It was the perfect summer soundtrack, and the duet between Chris and Adam Duritz (the piano-driven end-of-summer anthem “So Long, So Long”) was a goddamn perfect song. Looking back, there’s no album except Everything in Transit that encapsulates the turbulence of summertime youth like this one—at least not for me. From the sweltering atmosphere of “Don’t Wait” to the claustrophobic intensity of “Reason to Believe,” all the way to the more introspective second half, listening to this record never fails to take me back. It returns me to those summers when I was 15, 16, 17, 18, or 19 and always willing to hop in the car and drive three hours for a concert, or to stay out until the wee hours of the morning with friends. There are a lot of summer albums, and more arrive every year, but few get me in a nostalgic mood quite like this one.

    Dusk and Summer is a unique record in the Dashboard Confessional discography. Listening to it today, it’s pretty easy to tell that this album emerged from the midst of the mid-decade emo/pop-punk craze. The previous record, A Mark, A Mission, had dropped in 2003—often cited as the golden year for those genres. Dusk and Summer, though, happened after those genres exploded into the mainstream: after the Spider-Man 2 soundtrack was made up almost entirely of scene bands (Dashboard included), after Fall Out Boy had managed to conquer the radio, and after every major label started scooping up bands of this ilk. As a result, Dusk was the biggest production of Chris Carrabba’s career. The singles got more of a push; Daniel Lanois—famous for his work with heavy-hitters like U2 and Bob Dylan—was brought on to produce (though Don Gilmore ended up finishing the project); Carrabba’s photo landed on the album cover for the first time in his career; the moody torch song “Stolen” soundtracked one of the most heartbreaking moments in Scrubs history. The album even charted at number 2 on the Billboard 200 in its first week, selling 134,000 copies. By all accounts, this record was the peak of Chris Carrabba’s fame.

    It’s hard to know for sure whether it was the mainstream exposure or the quality of the songs that doomed Dusk and Summer to the ire of Dashboard Confessional fans. Sure, most of these tracks are big pop-rock songs, verging on arena-sized in scope. These choruses are huge, with sky-high vocal ranges that make them very difficult to sing along to. (Try hitting the high notes on the chorus in “Don’t Wait” or at the end of “Heaven Here” and tell me how that goes for you.) Carrabba was clearly aiming for something larger than life here: a mainstream rock album that injected new layers of pop into his sound while shedding most of his emo and singer/songwriter influences. (The title track is an exception to the latter rule.) The album is also more optimistic than anything Carrabba had ever put on tape before, with most of the songs taking a wistful tack and chronicling summer love with fond remembrance. There are no walls that get angrily dented by fists on this album—though there is “Slow Decay,” a bizarre, remarkably out-of-place song about a soldier coming home from war. Perhaps fans look down upon this album because, after years of giving them a safe place to dwell on the exquisite pain of heartbreak, Carrabba finally changed the game.

    I can’t say I have counterarguments for many of those grievances. I’m sure that if I’d heard Places or Swiss Army for the first time while in the midst of heartbreak, I would think of Carrabba’s full-band phase as a betrayal of his talents too. I can also sympathize with listeners who find Dusk and Summer overproduced—though, I’d argue that the gloss is part of the point. Carrabba wanted to make a big rock record that was as sunny and hopeful as summer itself, and the radio-ready production suits those goals. Still, it’s hard not to wonder what a completely Lanois-produced version of the album might have sounded like. Lanois is known for producing very atmospheric records, and while you can hear shimmers of his influence here—the pounding live drums on “Heaven Here,” or the radiant title track—Gilmore’s fingerprints are definitely more noticeable. I like to imagine that there’s a Lanois version of this record somewhere that sounds like a mix between The Joshua Tree and Time out of Mind.

    Still, for me, all of the criticisms and flaws don’t matter. I recognize that Carrabba sacrificed some of the diaristic feel of his music to create a more populist piece of work. I think about why Lanois didn’t get a chance to finish the record. I wonder how “Slow Decay”—while a decent song as a standalone—ended up in the middle of this record’s insanely nostalgic second half. And I don’t care. This record is more than just an album for me. It’s above criticism. It will always be my favorite Chris Carrabba album, warts and all, because of what these songs have meant to me over the years.

    Dusk and Summer took a lot of different forms for me after I gifted it to my brother on that July evening in 2006. At first, it was a carefree summer soundtrack—an album I played a lot on runs or when I was relaxing in my room on late summer evenings. Later, it was one of my go-to summer driving albums. When I got in the car and drove off to college at the end of summer 2009, I chose “So Long, So Long” to bid farewell to the season and to my hometown. Then, in 2010, the last two songs embedded themselves in my life story.

    Ever since the first time I heard it, “Dusk and Summer” (the song) has been one of my favorite summer night mixtape staples. In fact, it might be the best summer night song of all time. Everything about it—from the way Chris strums those chords on his acoustic guitar to the hazy vocal melody, all the way to the falsetto wails at the end—screams “last night of summer.” It’s frankly one of the most fittingly titled songs that has ever or will ever be written. Here, Carrabba perfectly captured a specific moment in time—that moment when the sun is about to set on the last night before school starts or the last night before you leave town. When you’re laying on the beach with the person you love, trying to make the season last just a few minutes longer. Trying to make it last, even as summer slips out of your grasp and out the door. For years, it was one of the last songs I’d play before I went to sleep on Labor Day. Even now, when I’m seven years past high school and three years out of college, that tradition still holds some sway with me. Suffice to say the songs that made it onto the mix every year—Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” Counting Crows’ “Miami,” Yellowcard’s “Back Home,” and Jimmy Eat World’s “My Sundown”—all rank somewhere in my top 50 songs of all time.

    “Dusk and Summer” eventually came to be the one of those songs that meant the most to me, and it’s all thanks to the summer of 2010. On the last night of the season—the last night before I headed back to college for my sophomore year—I was supposed to meet my girlfriend at the beach for precisely the kind of “last hurrah” that “Dusk and Summer” so perfectly encapsulates. I was driving my step dad’s car because mine was in the shop until the next morning, but that also meant I didn’t have my FM transmitter. Robbed of the ability to use my iPod in the car, I worried that I’d miss out on my usual “last night of summer” mixtape tradition. Luckily, I had a single blank CD in my room, so I burned my usual playlist to a disc and took it with me.

    Later that night—much later, after the sun had gone down and the last vestiges of western glow had disappeared from the sky—my girlfriend and I sat in the car, saying one of our last goodbyes. We’d started dating about a month and a half before and had spent most of July and August inseparable—falling harder for each other than either of us ever had for anyone else. But the end of summer marked the end of assurance for us and our relationship. We were both going back to school—different schools, on opposite sides of the state—and neither of us had ever attempted the long distance relationship thing before. I wasn’t at all sure what was next for us, and a part of me definitely worried that this was the best that things were ever going to get. I didn’t know what apartness would do to a relationship we’d built on the foundation of getting to see each other for 12+ hours a day.

    So when I kissed her goodbye and “Dusk and Summer” started to play, it cracked my façade. We both started crying, and for a moment, us, that song, and the front seat of the car were the only things that existed. When we finally managed to calm our tears and part ways for the night, I shifted my step dad’s car into first gear and drove, skipping back to “Dusk and Summer” to hear it again. Somewhere on the 10-minute drive home, I found myself in tears again, trying to sing along to Carrabba’s wistful words, but unable to shake the feeling that the lyrics might be prophetic.

    She said, “No one is alone, the way you are alone”
    And you held her looser than you would have if you ever could have known
    Some things tie your life together
    With slender threads and things to treasure
    Days like that should last and last and last
    But you’ve already lost
    When you only had
    Barely enough of her to hang on

    What if I had let go too easily? Said goodbye too soon? Kissed her a second shorter than I should have? What if college and long distance and the end of summer were about to kill the best thing that had ever happened to me? What if, in the morning, I was going to drive away from the one thing in the world that I knew I really wanted, and lose it? And then my tears stopped and I had a moment of clarity, and I said to myself: “I’m in love with that girl.”

    The next morning, after I picked up my car from the shop and packed it with all my stuff, I met her one last time, for the second part of our goodbye. By some stroke of serendipity, the song playing in her car on her iPod was “Heaven Here”—Dusk and Summer’s big, anthemic closing track. Again we tried to say goodbye a million times before we could actually mean it; again, we both fought tears and lost. This time, though, the lyrics felt more hopeful: “When heaven’s not waiting, it’s spilling its secrets/It’s right here between us/And we’ve no other choice but believe/So let it last all night.” Later, as the song reached its dizzying zenith, the message was even simpler: “Heaven is here, and tonight, we are the only ones who feel it.” Hearing that song as I bid farewell to the greatest summer of my life, it silenced all the fear and doubt I’d felt the night before. We were going to be fine. We were going to make it. We were going to beat the distance and beat the odds and be together. Because heaven was there in that town that summer, and we somehow got to be the only two people in the world who knew what it felt like.

    Three years, 10 months, and 23 days later, that girl walked down the aisle and married me. And that’s why Dusk and Summer is always going to be my favorite Dashboard Confessional album: without this album, I might never have found the strength to fight so hard for her. Without it, I wouldn’t be me, and we wouldn’t be us. So happy 10 years to Chris Carrabba’s most-maligned masterpiece. Sometimes, even an artist’s so-called “worst” albums can change lives.

    OwainGlyndwr likes this.
  2. Kizwiz


    It's my favoutite Dashboard album too. Also, did this album get removed from Spotify? I noticed about a week ago my saved songs had disappeared (minus 3 songs?) and the album has disappeared from the discography?
  3. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    It's there for me?

  4. Stevie


    I am part of the "old school" Dashbord crew. I do remember feeling underwhelmed by Dusk and Summer, just because so much of what I loved about Dashboard and the originality of the stripped down focus as well as the brilliance of the lyrics which as a teenager were super relatable to me...

    Having said the above, I'm listening to this album again and as a standalone, it's pretty decent. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!
  5. nl5011

    Trusted Supporter

    Great write up!
  6. mescalineeyes

    ASHAMED (OF BEING BORN) Prestigious

    Wow. I had actually tears in my eyes reading this, and it's not even that kind of day for me.

  7. alexjlow


    Great stuff Craig. My favourite Dashboard release too. A perfect summer album.
  8. Ben Lee

    I drink coffee and dad my kids Supporter

    I think I was probably part of the "old school" group, where my favorite was Swiss Army. Then I saw him this year on Taste of Chaos, and he stole the show big time. Everything was just so good and I found myself going back and loving his entire discography!
  9. blacktaxi2d


    this album emerged from the midst of the mid-decade emo/pop-punk craze. The previous record, A Mark, A Mission, had dropped in 2003—often cited as the golden year for those genres

    2003 really was the best in retrospect. crazy. also one of my favorite shows ever was carrabba playing all of swiss army acoustic at the social in orlando. that man can sing
  10. CMilliken


    Great write up. I honestly never understood why this album got so much hate. It's still my favorite alum by Dashboard.
  11. jorbjorb

    7 rings

    sucks that his latest song sucked
    a nice person likes this.
  12. efp722


    Terrific write up. Album never really landed for me though. Gonna give it another spin today.
  13. xapplexpiex

    sup? Supporter

    Not my favorite DC album, but they're all great. Nice to see them making music again and that your review might get more listeners :)
  14. ajverdon Jun 27, 2016
    (Last edited: Jun 27, 2016)


    I LOVED shade of poison trees. Thought it was excellent

    ALSO, settle the debate as to which version of Stolen is best
  15. NotBruce


    Damn, Craig. Seriously well written! I have a lot of relationship history tied up in Dashboard's discography, so this hit pretty close to home.

    I'm in a weird DBC class, I guess. I can appreciate his first few albums, I loved the transition into A Mark, I really liked this album, and I definitely agree that Alter The Ending is probably his strongest work. It may be due to nostalgia-tinted glasses but I'll take it.
  16. Ryan

    Might be Spider-Man...

    I love everything Chris has ever done, so it's hard to rank a DC record, but Dusk is a beautiful piece of music. Every song takes me back, it's just great
  17. TedSchmosby


    Reading this was a fantastic way to spend my morning breakfast. I feel good about today
  18. Eric Wilson

    Trusted Prestigious

    Definitely one of my favorites.
  19. Oskarr Jun 27, 2016
    (Last edited: Jun 27, 2016)

    Needled 24/7

    I always liked Dusk and Summer, too. "The Secret's In The Telling" is a jam.

    Also, I completely expected you to break things off with her, and that this was a piece about music-memories and what-should-have-beens. I'm really happy to read otherwise. Pretty sure I annoyed my neighbors with how loud I cheered "YES!" at the end, lol. Cheers bud!
  20. Tyler Mills

    Bread makes you fat?! Supporter

    Man, I actually really loved The Shade of Poison Trees. Great retrospective though! Dusk probably falls somewhere in the middle for me rankings wise
  21. NitrateDawn


    Great review Craig. While I don't have quite the story to go with it, this album similarly has a ton of memories attached to it that makes it my favorite DC album. It was also my introduction to his music so I'm sure that has something to do with it too.
  22. efp722


    The original version of stolen was like stolen of the face of the planet. Can't find it anywhere. The sped of version sounds so bad.
  23. @@ron


    I'm not sure if it was the innocence of youth, but I ache for an album today to effect me the way that this one did. It became the soundtrack to my high school summer days and nights. Don't Wait, Currents, and Dusk and Summer were my most played songs and I felt them more and more each time I heard them. They were constants where relationships and friends failed me. There are so many emotions tied up in this album for me. I can remember waiting to walk out to marry my wife and Stolen (slow version) was playing and nothing had ever felt more right. There are few albums that make me feel the way this one does. It is my favorite Dashboard album as well. I'm a fan of the more band-oriented sound.

    Now, how do we get this thing pressed on vinyl???
  24. jakeryandesigns


    THIS. Still love this album and the feeling it gives me. I always thought this album flowed so well and was solid front to back.
  25. derekjd

    Slow down, Quentin Supporter

    I haven't ever listened through this record, to be shamefully honest. But I read your review at lunch and it gave me chills. You jackass. :) Hitting play now.