The Deal: (Really good) emo rockers attempt evolution.
The Good: After four albums building a following that could be deemed a teeny-bopper crowd, Dashboard Confessional's fifth release, The Shade of Poison Trees, is a surprising step in a mature direction – and it's hard to quite figure out why. If you like churning, classic power-pop, you may have already given these guys a closer look, filing them under "guilty pleasures." But it's possible Poison is a record you can safely keep out in the open without losing too much of what may have hooked you in the first place. Chris Carrabba's choirboy tenor and gorgeous harmonies break from the strident electric feel of previous albums and are this time set against an acoustic core of strumming, interlaid guitar rifts. On Poison, Dashboard gets back to earlier efforts like their debut The Swiss Army Romance, but avoids the emo saturation of The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most. The title track showcases what Dashboard does best – intimate, melancholy lyrics with catchy choruses – and a few indie-pop numbers will still please the teen set.
The Bad: Grown-up though it may be, Poison lacks in the incredibly grabby hooks of preceding records. On first listen, the album races through the first five tracks in a kind of indistinguishable jumble before getting into stride on track six, the title track. And there are definitely times the guitar parts start to sound a little too familiar ...
The Verdict: A solid effort that is obviously an attempt at moving out of the freshman breakup album stereotype, but still manages to preserve what makes Dashboard (though I hate to admit it) kind of awesome.