Monday, July 23rd, 2018

Album Review: A Dotted Line

Nickel Creek Photography

Posted on January 25, 2016 in Arts & Culture
By Krysteana Scribner

You know those moments when you stumble upon an album so great, each song sends goosebumps down the nape of your neck? In their not-so-new but long-overdue album A Dotted Line, Nickel Creek has outdone themselves with a new creative spark of imagination in both song lyrics and overall music style.

Each note seems precise, clean and creative: A set of guitar riffs blend perfectly with the chopping of a mandolin in one song, while the sweet sounds of violin hum solemnly in the background of another. One of my favorite songs,Love of Mine,” personifies love from a first-person perspective, explaining that our captivation for this feeling often pushes us to fall too hard. Accompanied by the sibling duo Sean (guitar) and Sara (violin) Watkins, Mandolinist Chris Thile sings, “Love of mine, when you’re born I tell myself that you’ll never die / and I throw my arms around the girl who finds you / ‘Cause the world is rosier / through your eyes.”

This haunting melody has me thinking about life and love: Emotions so easily control our lives and the decisions we make. He is very clever with his use of personification, using tasteful lyrics such as “Oh, but she gave us to each other / The only thing she’s done for me that you could never do / For that she’ll always be remembered / After she discovers I don’t love her half as much as you.” Thile sings with brutal honesty about the wars of love and reminds his listeners not to take their own emotions for granted.

Another song on the album, “Destination,” is sung by Sara with instrumental and harmony accompaniment by Thile and Watkins. Written by this female lead, the song tells the story of love falling apart as a relationship progresses through the stages. She starts off strong, her vibrato like an echo in the middle of the night, “You don’t owe me one more minute of your wasted time” – slowly the guitar chops until he’s loud enough to play full chords. When the song begins to escalate into a full-blown chorus, fresh energy is brought to the soundtrack; voices are completely in sync and instrumentals are appropriately balanced with vocals.

Another one of their songs, “Rest of My Life,” is nothing more complex than waking up after a party, but the way the band has allowed the instruments to convey emotion is what was really striking about this song. Thile sings, “The battle is over / Here we all lie / In a dry sea of Solo cups / with the sun in our eyes.” This moment of waking up with a hangover is relatable for listeners.

When Thile sings, “There are worse ways to start / the first day of the / rest of my life” the violin begins to pluck and the guitar begins to play lower range notes in a minor scale, insinuating danger lies ahead. A second later, the violin is again a string of beautiful melodies and the guitar is picking in a major key. I had never heard a band do that before, so listening to their rendition of emotion in music was delightfully pleasing.

After listening to every album this band has to offer and seeing them live, I can assure that anyone who enjoys bluegrass rock with a bit of relatable life experience lyrics will fall in love with Nickel Creek. Their universally acclaimed album, although a complete surprise to both band members and listeners, shows how the trio has matured through the stages of their life. Their experiences are ultimately reflected in their writings and show in each song’s level of complexity and meaning.

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