For those longtime lovers of Dave Matthews Band still reeling in the rougher, grittier vibe of the last few years, their most recently released album Away from the World comes as a breath of fresh air. Reminiscent of their more lyrically intimate beginnings, this album delivers on the kind of unbuttoned crooning, thoughtful guitar strumming, violin humming magic that made us fall in love at the start of the group’s career.
This feeling of déjà vu can be partly explained by the band’s reunion with producer Steve Lillywhite, who produced the group’s first three albums. The reunion is definitely palpable on tracks like “Belly Belly Nice” which take us back to the pulsing rhythms and hot horn sections in songs like “Ants Marching” from DMB’s first studio album Under the Table and Dreaming.
The album also delivers on iconic Dave-like guitar picking in tracks like “Rooftop” and “Snow Outside,” which when listened to in succession, create the feeling of driving fast down a bumpy road to suddenly being gently rocked on a ship at sea. Yeah, y’all. You heard it here first. Dave’s hands can take you there.
While the group shows a return to their early years in terms of style, Away from the World shows the maturity of a group on their seventh studio release.
Both the group’s technical prowess and emotional maturity are heard on songs like “Snow Outside:”
“Here you come, you bring me real love / From the ground beneath to the stars above / I was growing down, now I’m growing up / With you in my blood.”
This song combines the rich overlapping of orchestral-like strings and rich phrases of contrapuntal horns. Plus, this track features a nice, long violin solo that only my man Boyd Tinsley can deliver.
Still other tracks, like the stripped-down “Sweet” reveal the vulnerability and intimacy characteristic of Away from the World. The track features the smooth, naked vocals of Dave paired with the innocence of a ukulele, the combination of which is enough to make anyone swoon.
The tracks “The Riff” and “Belly Full” expound on this inherent intimacy, especially in “Belly Full.” The combination of lyrics and lush instrumentation in this track provides the necessary, what I like to call, ‘panty-dropping factor’ that DMB never fails to deliver on:
“Spread yourself across my lips / And I spoon you in / The sweetest thing in all the world / Oh I want more.”
The deliciously suggestive lyrics in this track mirror those of one of the group’s biggest hits “Crash Into Me” from their second album Crash:
“Hike up your skirt a little more / Show your world to me.” In this way, Dave toes yet again the lyrical line between incredibly sexy and slightly creepy in only the way he can.
While I hate to be a buzz-kill (no need to pretend like that last paragraph didn’t get you a little bothered), this album also includes a powerful ideological message about the state of the world today.
The album pairs tracks, “Mercy” and “Gaucho” to really make this message apparent. The first track, poses the question “Mercy, will we over come this / One by one could we turn it around?” and the second track seems to answer with, “We’ve got to do much more than believe / If we really want to see the world change.”
It is this album’s ability to simultaneously “turn you on” and “lift you up” that makes it so delightful. Combine those qualities with the artful mastery of the group’s seasoned musicians and you’ve got an experience that truly makes you feel Away from the World. I give this album a shiny five out of five stars. Any haters can deal with me personally.