You Can't Win

You Can't Win

5.0 1
by Dolorean
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


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.

Product Details

Release Date:
Yep Roc Records

Related Subjects


Album Credits

Performance Credits

Dolorean   Primary Artist
Ben Nugent   Percussion,Drums,Vocals,Background Vocals
Jonathan Drews   Vocals
Emil Amos   Electric Guitar,Vocals
James   Acoustic Guitar,Vocals
Jay Clarke   Organ,Piano,Electric Piano,Vibes
James Adair   Bass Guitar
Laura Gibson   Vocals
Peter Broderick   Banjo,Mandolin
James   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar
Jack Gibson   Vocals

Technical Credits

Gus Van Sant   Cover Photo
Ben Nugent   Vocal Arrangements
Rob Oberdorfer   Engineer
James Arthur Salter   Author

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You Can't Win 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Following on from the two beautiful albums “Not Exotic” and “Violence In The Snowy Fields”, Dolorean’s “You Can’t Win” has a lot to live up to. Al James, the band’s leader and songwriter, rises to the challenge and produces their best, most accessible and most consistent work to date. From the start, it’s clear that the band were willing to take some chances and further develop their sound (an alt:country/folk/pop blend) while still retaining the qualities that Dolorean fans have come to admire. Throughout this album of 11 new songs, the band are augmented by the fine, edgy and bluesy guitar work of Emil Amos ( from the band Holy Sons) Also noticeable on the album is the increased focus on harmony work on a number of tracks (often achieved through multi-tracking), very strong melodies throughout and experimentation with different instruments to produce some beautifully layered tracks and a much fuller sound. Lyrically, the album seems a little simpler and more direct than their previous work although Al still chooses his words very precisely - there’s nothing sloppy here - everything seems very well considered. The opening title track demonstrates the fresh approach very well. For the usually poetic Mr James to write a lyric with just 3 words and then have it as the lead off track is a brave move but one that works very well, creating a kind of overture for the rest of the album The track starts with a percussive beat and an arresting bass and keyboard pattern repeats and develops. The title is repeated many times over the building track, with some fine harmonies, resulting in a very hypnotic and unusual track. Next up is the piano driven (and slightly R.E.M. like) “We Winter Wrens”. A beautiful melody sung over piano chords to begin with before other instruments such as banjo, drums and electric guitar enter the picture. One of the best tracks on the album and perfect listening for a bleak cold winters day. “Heather Remind Me How This Ends” is perhaps more familiar Dolorean fare, with a mandolin featuring in the instrumental break. “Beachcomber Blues” is possibly the standout track of the album. Starting with Al singing alone in his plaintive voice to a strummed guitar, this strong melodic track develops with a wonderful layered backing comprising harpsichord, organ and Emil’s breathtaking bluesy guitar work. Add in some gorgeous harmonies and a great lyric about restlessness and the six and a half minute song easily becomes one of the best tracks in the whole Dolorean catalogue. “You Don’t Want to Know” is a short echoey snippet of a song, sounding as if it’s just drifted in from some other place- the percussion and drums towards the end of the track seeming to suggest distant thunder - an ominous ending to a mysterious song: “if it’s too late out and I’m not at home.......You don’t want to know”........ “Buffalo Girl” -is a slower track with a very atmospheric backing of brushed drums, simple acoustic guitar, Emil’s electric guitar interjections and some minimalist piano parts courtesy of Jay Clarke. “In Love With The Doubt” is another strong melodic track, with a clever lyric which also features a piano and guitar duet in the instrumental breaks. “What one Bottle can do” is a surprisingly cheerful tune considering the lyric “I drink one bottle of wine each night to get over you”. 33-53.9° N,118-38.8° W is a wordless tribute to Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, who was developing into an important solo artist before he died (“Google” the co- ordinates to discover their significance!). This is a moody evocative track with particularly exc