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The Shade of Poison Trees

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Editors’ Notes

Chris Carrabba strips things down on Dashboard Confessional’s fifth release, creating a handful of intimate, acoustic-based songs free of emo overkill or instrumental bombast.  Roughly half the songs here have the band backing Carrabba in some form (mostly in low gear, not full throttle), and half the songs simply feature Carrabba and acoustic guitars.  His lyrics seem to have taken a leap into adulthood, and out of the realm of heart-on-the-sleeve confessionals.  Of course, lyrics being what they are, we could be wrong in our interpretations, but topics here appear to range from a gold-digging mistress whose Hollywood dreams never took root (the radio friendly “Where There’s Gold”) to lying in one’s deathbed (the oddly upbeat “These Bones”).  Most tracks feel more pop-oriented, as if he’s aiming for Adult Contemporary radio — and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “Fever Dreams” is a clear move into that territory; bubbly, delicate and fun, it works very well. “The Shade of Poison Trees” showcases graceful, dreamy harmonies, and strings punctuate the beautifully orchestrated “Clean Breaks.”  Even an attempt at U2-styled gravity on “The Rush” turns shimmering and airy, but “The Widow’s Peak,” the last track, finally brings things around to a heavier emotional feel, with some minor key piano and Carrabba’s soaring falsetto tugging at your empathy strings.  These songs may lose some fans, but no doubt will win new ones at the same time.

Customer Reviews

Carrabba has once again found his place in his craft

"The Shade of Poison Trees" is the first time since 2001's "The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most" that Carrabba has appeared without the distinct air of trying to sound as big as possible, and what's most clear upon listening is how connected he appears again. From the opening strums of the rather dapper "Where There's Gold," Carrabas' songwriting once again takes center stage - literally, as all the enhancements of his more recent work are all but gone. Replacing the loud guitars and in-studio twiddlings is the refound energy of every heart-sleeved boy dreaming of writing that perfect song for that (not so) perfect girl. Musical growths aside, the best parts of the album are undoubtedly the moments that are most personal because it seems as if Carrabba has once again found his place in his craft. Collectively, "The Shade of Poison Trees" is stellar, and the best work Carrabbu has done since "The Swiss Army Romance."

Ehhh, something's lacking.

Dashboard Confessional is amazing; however, this album lacks in creativity (not lyrically, musically). The songs are short and almost too simple. It's like they rushed production just to save their old fans from dying off. It's all acoustic, with a couple songs with piano. Fever dreams is horrible. Thick As Thieves is great. The writing is even better, but like I said's just too plain and boring compared to his earlier work which he's trying to get back to on this album. Still buy it if you are completely into Dashboard, and definitely go see him if he, or they ever come to your town…but if you’re looking for a great acoustic cd, you should check out “Swiss Army Romance” or “Places you have come to fear the most” or even the excellent E.P. “So Impossible”…Cheers.

Give it a listen and shut your negative mouth, Nancy!

If you’re grasping for a soundtrack to ail you through a recent breakup, then the most reasonable prescription for your broken heart would be to dig through your junior high time capsule, retrieve your Ben Folds Five CD, and play “Brick” on repeat while you lay in your darkened apartment on a bed of soggy tissues. The anecdotes of Chris Carrabba, the lyrical mastermind behind Dashboard Confessional, are pre-occupied with making innovative music to supplement the soul — Carrabba, guitar in hand, pounds and strums like a metaphysician on his new album, The Shade of Poison Trees. Remaining forward-moving, this songsmith has reached deep down into his extensive repertoire and has gone back to the stylistic roots of The Swiss Army Romance that acclaimed Dashboard Confessional seven years ago. With agile strumming, Carrabba utilizes meticulously timed fret board dances to serve up a distinct echo of Dashboard Confessional classics garnished with the relishable fullness of his graceful harmonies and prolific verses. “Where There’s Gold” sports Dashboard’s signature acoustic sound as a banner-waving opener: a tune that lines out over the frailties of seeking fame and fortune. The chorus declares the brilliant line, “Where there’s gold, there’s a gold digger.” A gem in itself, “Where There’s Gold” merely serves as an usher for number two on the project, “Thick as Thieves”, a track worth the intrinsic value of a gold ring. Carrabba, not surrendering his linguistic craftsmanship, created a more relevant work of poetry with this album. While a majority of the tracks boast a traditional Dashboard Confessional feel, Carrabba ventures to parade his talents as a journeyman of song-writing with the diverse tones of The Shade of Posion Trees. “Fever Dreams” a clever, synth driven song similar in sound to the likes of The Postal Service and Snow Patrol precedes the title track. The playful electronic drum beat and synthesized accents in “Fever Dreams” brings me back to following the bouncing ball in third grade music class. Only now the bouncing ball has a stylish faux hawk and sports a peppy smile as it caroms to the lyrics “Fever dreams / can only haunt you / till the fever breaks.” As the title track for the 2006 Dashboard Confessional release, “Dusk and Summer” nabbed the album’s title at the end of the project. Instead of pinnacling the arrangement with this year’s title track, “The Shade of Poison Trees,” Carrabba planted it expediently at track six — the cool center of this toasty record. The drab tones of “The Shade of Poison Trees” ceased the elated tap of my foot and sent me on a vacation from the hot and sunny tinge of “Fever Dreams”, seemingly culminating the listening experience thus far. At first I failed to acknowledge the virtuosity of its strategic placement and hurled a consonant cluster thinking that I had just got taken for a ride by paying ten dollars for a six-song, pseudo EP. Interrupting me pre-temper tantrum, the oh-so-familiar progressive drum beats of Dashboard Confessional beckoned me to abandon my foolish presumptions and gear up for the ascent to the summit of my listening experience, “”The Widow’s Peak,” a monumental display of Carrabba’s knack for taking his voice to heights the Wright brothers never knew possible. Standing at five feet five inches tall, front-man Carrabba proves to be a heavyweight in the ring with other inadequate contenders of the alt/emo genre as he manages to land hit after hit with each arrangement of anthems he has executed in his career.


Formed: 1999 in Boca Raton, FL

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Singer/songwriter Christopher Carrabba became the poster boy for a new generation of emo fans in the early 2000s, having left behind his former band (the post-hardcore Christian outfit Further Seems Forever) to concentrate on vulnerable, introspective solo musings. Armed with an acoustic guitar and soul-baring song lyrics, he christened his new project Dashboard Confessional -- named after a lyric in "The Sharp Hint of New Tears" -- and began releasing material in 2000. By 2001's The Place You Have...
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