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You Can't Win

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Album Review

You Can't Win is a slow drive through the kind of America that feels as wrung out and worn through as a pair of old sneakers. It's the kind of terrain traversed by other introspective, rustic, youngish men like Jeff Tweedy, Joe Purdy, and (to an extent) Will Oldham — the kind of place you go if you're looking for empty stretches of pavement and hulking, rusted-out factories moldering in the tall grass. Dolorean's lead singer and songwriter, Al James, is interested in stories about men on the outskirts; You Can't Win, to put it in the words of writer James Salter, concerns itself with "a breed of aimless wanderers" who "have an infuriating power, that of condemned men. They can talk to anybody; they can speak the truth." James is interested in giving voice to this truth, and it sure does yield some sad songs. While James plods over some clichéd subjects on this album (women and booze chief among them), he at least has a knack for story. "Beachcomber Blues" and "My Still Life" tread the usual territory of busted hearts and broken dreams, but James manages to flesh out these old ideas in some surprising ways; the beachcomber becomes a symbol for the directionless wanderer, and the arid Californian landscape is riddled with images of an ex-lover. Granted, there's a lot of drowsy, dull-hearted shambling going on here, and it's a little depressing to come up against a wall of relentless melancholy such as this. But even if this trip is a tad on the soporific side, Dolorean still manages to travel through some beautiful country.

Customer Reviews

Fantastic songwriting, lovingly produced

Al James is a terrific songwriter that has found his own voice and a great band to help him paint his musical portraits. If you've never heard of Dolorean, you need to immediately download this album and the first two albums, "Violence in the Snowy Fields" and "Not Exotic." My favorites on this album include "Heather Remind Me How This Ends" and "In Love With the Doubt," but really, Dolorean's work is meant to be experienced as a cohesive album, not just as stand-alone tracks. Do yourself a favor and listen to the entire CD!

Melodramatic, methodical and evoking many memories...

Melodramatic, methodical and evoking many memories, Dolorean continues to put forth indie-rock alt-country folky blues albums that make us all feel like we have been in places we have never visited, seen things we have never seen, and lived lives filled with bouts of depression and existensial tendencies. Indeed "You Can't Win" perfectly fits Dolorean's downcast sound and reminds the listener of days of the past he has only heard of... as you listen, think back to times in your own life that have never existed...

You Can't Win - Superb!

A friend introduced me to the band a few years back and I've been hooked ever since. In their last three albums I've found Dolorean's songs to be thoughtful, intricate, and extremely well produced - there's no exception in "You Can't Win". This album IS a Win.


Formed: 1999 in Portland, OR

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Dolorean emerged from sleepy Silverton, OR, in 1999, after guitarist/vocalist Al James invited Standard keyboard enthusiast Jay Clarke to play on a slew of his quiet, avant folk home recordings. Sudden Oak, the duo's debut EP, appeared that same year, and Dolorean began playing out. By 2001, they had resettled in Portland and were a fixture on the local literati scene, accompanying poetry readings and the like with their understated sound. By this point, drummer Ben Nugent had also joined the fold....
Full Bio
You Can't Win, Dolorean
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Customer Ratings