6. Song No. 12: “A Little Bit of Everything,” Dawes
Nothing is Wrong, 2011
My first exposure to Dawes was friends playing this in other friends’ living rooms, basements and backyards, and also probably at least once on vacation. And “A Little Bit of Everything” literally only impressed itself on me by sheer force of repetition: It was one of those songs everyone except me seemed to know so the happenstance of literally everyone else’s intersecting tastes made it feel, to me, less like a reliable favorite and more like an inevitability. Nothing about the song grabbed me, which is unusual given the near-perfect circle of the shared-musical-taste Venn diagrams at play and number of off-key but enthusiastic contributions I’ve made to group sing-alongs over the years.
I think I eventually realized this was going to be a get-together staple, found out what the song was, and downloaded the entirety of “Nothing is Wrong” because I like knowing a song’s context. And was underwhelmed by absolutely all of it.
I’m no stranger to the reality of Right Noun Wrong Time and how time has a way of making it at least worth revisiting things you didn’t immediately enjoy to see if either of you has changed: There are so many required readings and half-finished classics I came back to as an adult that rocked my world to prove most things deserve a second or third chance given enough time. And I must have found my way back to this album and what I had first written off as its blandly trite lyrics that were so unpolished I couldn’t sing along without cringing at them, and found enough to love about it that a Dawes tour supporting their sixth studio album merited an instant “Hell yes, let’s go!”
Still, in January 2018, I kind of groaned on the inside when this song started and I realized it was so inevitable that it was happening here at a Philadelphia concert venue, and then minutes later found myself crying in the gratefully anonymous dark. (And it never once had to do with the line “It’s the death of my first dog,” which is an invocation almost 100-percent guaranteed to be a tearjerker if I dwell on it, even almost 23 years later.) Something about it whacked me squarely in every feeling right at a time when I was ready for it to dislodge all kinds of things I’d been holding in for too long. The only thing better than a good, cathartic cry is figuring out what caused it, and music has a way of crystalizing those things if you let it.
Maybe I was still just a little too bitchy for such an earnest band when I first gave Dawes and this song and its album a try. Maybe having developed a very specific kind of work-travel fondness for the Pacific region and how Dawes’ Laurel Canyon sound rises to meet both Las Vegas and Los Angeles in a personally significant way helped. Maybe I understand a lot of the scenarios and their accompanying emotions better than I did even a few years ago.
Whatever the case, this wasn’t the first time a switch flipped on for a band or song (Jukebox the Ghost, now one of my favorite current bands, also left me feeling totally lukewarm about their lyrics for years after I first caught them at a once-reliably-recurring summer music festival; even my beloved Decemberists’ “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” annoyed the fuck out of me until I saw it turned into a wild ride of performance art), but it is one of the most recent examples so it’s still kind of novel how I went from being flatly unimpressed by everything to wondering how I missed so much the first time around. It’s a welcome reminder of how mutable and influenced by both time and circumstances something as inherently subjective as taste can be.