Dave Matthews Band, "Walk Around the Moon" (RCA)
DMB albums seesaw between joy and angst. On the home front, with a partner and family, the songs find affection, pleasure and ease. Beyond it, the wider world holds strife and dread. And looking inward can be just as troubling.
The band's 10th studio album opens with its title song, swinging the beat and exulting in a relationship that has saved the grateful singer: "You gave me everything/Now I'm flying into this kaleidoscopic dream." But that dream doesn't last; up next is a song about school shootings. On "Madman's Eyes," Matthews howls, "Don't sacrifice another child!"
More than most rock songwriters — especially in the jam-band realm where he has been barnstorming for three decades — Matthews, 56, leans into being a grown-up. He's an unabashed dad-rocker, a proud parent who has long been thinking and worrying about the welfare of his children and of generations to come. In the waltz "Something to Tell My Baby," Matthews muses on how fleeting life can be, wondering what memories to leave behind "to make them smile/And maybe make things easier."
"Walk Around the Moon" is the band's first studio album since 2018, and the first since its longtime violinist, Boyd Tinsley, left the band. DMB's sound had already been changing and deepening. (Rashawn Ross, a trumpeter who has toured with the band since 2006, now has a more prominent role.) But the band's founding rhythm section — Carter Beauford on drums and Stefan Lessard on bass — still keeps the songs nimble, no matter how burdened Matthews' thoughts can become.
In "The Only Thing," over a barreling electric guitar riff that hints at Led Zeppelin, Matthews is desperate to "Crawl out of this skin I'm living in/Crawl out of my mind into the outside." And in "Monsters," a reverberating ballad, he's trying to reassure a child — or possibly himself — that the "monsters in your head" aren't real.
In these new songs, love, or even the possibility of love, solves a lot of problems. But Matthews is well aware that love, in a happy domestic sphere, is just an individual refuge, not a global solution. "The world is going in all directions/Like bottles shattered on the floor," he sings in the elegiac "All You Ever Wanted Was Tomorrow." And in the closing "Singing From the Windows," he imagines being within a siege, thinking about "when the war is over" while watching fires and hearing sirens.
JON PARELES, New York Times
- Arlo Parks, "My Soft Machine"
- Lil Durk, "Almost Healed"
- Sparks, "The Girl Is Crying in Her Latte"
- Matchbox Twenty, "Where the Light Goes"