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Dawn Landes - Sweet Heart Rodeo

Dawn Landes, Sweetheart Rodeo

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

KENTUCKY-born and Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Dawn Landes has one of the most beautifully seductive voices you’re likely to hear. It’s one of many reasons to check out her third studio album, Sweet Heart Rodeo.

Another is cheeky former single, Romeo, a playful song that berates a certain someone who once ruined one of Landes’ birthdays by standing her up, while a third is charmingly kooky Clown, a disarming ditty built around a Casio-sounding synth loop and a dippy hand-clap back-beat (in places).

There are many more reasons too… all contributing to one undeniable fact: that Dawn Landes is special.

The singer-songwriter first came to the UK’s attention with the release of her acclaimed second album (and her UK debut), Fireproof in 2008, which led Q to declare it as “understated and beautiful”, and The Guardian to call it “vivid girl-next-door indie pop in the spirit of Frente and Cat Powers”.

Sweet Heart Rodeo looks set to win her even more friends and acclaim.

The title was inspired by Landes great-grandmother’s beau, who ran away to join the rodeo during the Great Depression, and a rodeo theme runs throughout the record as she compares the ups and downs of romance to the rigours of bull riding.

“Each song is like its own bull,” the 28-year-old deadpans. “Each ride its own love-story … you know, trying to hang on to a wild thing isn’t always graceful.”

There’s plenty of grace in the songs on the album, however, which all register strongly in some way.

Aside from the aforementioned picks, album opener Young Girl kicks things off in lively, vivacious fashion as it ponders gender stereotyping – competitive boys, jealous girls – over a reductive and distorted keyboard riff. It’s a rousing entry point that’s followed by the beautiful Romeo.

Money In The Bank, meanwhile, showcases another impossibly sweet central vocal from Landes, while effortlessly marrying down-home hippie wisdom (“the night before you die, what are you gonna buy?”) to a lush chorus that’s bolstered by a wistful French horn and a heart-melting melody.

An addictive dose of mouth organ heralds the arrival of the boisterously bluesy Sweetheart of the Rodeo, which even belatedly drops in some wonderful mandolin solos, while Wandering Eye cleverly combines the themes of sex, infidelity and travel to whimsical effect. It’ll engage you without offending you.

Little Miss Holiday cleverly imagines a conversation between Jodie Foster and the teenage hooker that inspired her character in Scorsese’s unhinged Taxi Driver, thereby providing compelling evidence of Landes’ skills as a songwriter, while Dance Area is a dusky acoustic effort that’s breathtakingly simple yet achingly romantic.

And, finally, All Dressed In White brings the album to a close with a deliciously wobbly synth bedding and a hopeless romanticism that’s impossible not to enjoy and warm to.

In short, Dawn Landes has created another masterpiece of an album that’s utterly unmissable.

Download picks: Romeo, Clown, All Dressed In White, Money In The Bank, Dance Area, Little Miss Holiday

Track listing:

  1. Young Girl
  2. Romeo
  3. Money In The Bank
  4. Love
  5. Sweetheart Of The Rodeo
  6. Clown
  7. Wandering Eye
  8. Little Miss Holiday
  9. Dance Area
  10. Brighton
  11. All Dressed In White