Song of the Week: Coming Back to a Man, Dawes

Click to listen to “Coming Back to a Man” by Dawes

Taylor Goldsmith is probably one of my favorite lyricists ever. He manages to consistently paint poetic portraits of the more melancholy shades of the human experience: heartbreak, missed opportunities, etc. But he’s also an artisan, building fully-realized and cohesive songs. This is music for lyric junkies in the Jackson Browne mold.

Take the great opening lines of “Coming Back to a Man:” “You still wear your hair to your shoulders/you still look like a Friday night,” which outlines one of the song’s characters in the same oblique but penetrating way that people like Brown and Richard Thompson do. There’s a lot thematically going on in “Coming Back to a Man” as well. It’s a complicated song about gaining an emotional maturity, about being unable to make things the way they were: “You broke the quick giving heart of a kid/but you’re now coming back to a man.” It’s a pretty heavy theme, which would sound clichéd or maudlin in the hands of another group, but Dawes imbues it with a sort of prideful melancholy.

The instruments are way down in the mix until the 0:40 mark, allowing Goldsmith’s lyrics to occupy most of the listener’s attention. The wounds are healed, for better or for worse, when the harmonica and piano kick in at the 1:10 mark, and I get the sense that there’s a bit of a celebration going on here. Look at me, the protagonist seems to say, I have conquered not you, but myself. I’d also like to give Goldsmith a tip of the hat for a very lyrical guitar solo at 2:40, which complements rather than overwhelms the track—each note is intelligently chosen to service the song, as befits a true artisan.