Dusk and Summer has always felt like an out of place title in the midst of Dashboard Confessional’s discography. Replacing the melancholy of earlier records and the spectacle of “Dashboard goes electric”, Dusk and Summer is a glamorized summer album, specifically tailored to be listened to as a soundtrack on the beach. The guitars are softer, laying the groundwork for songs soaking themselves in love and sunshine. Dusk and Summer is the Dashboard record that I cherry pick the most when listening to these days, but remains the album that feels the most like the summer of 2006 to me 10 years later.
Having followed Dashboard Confessional for years before the release of this album, the only release between this album and 2003’s seminal A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar was the song “Vindicated” from the Spider-Man 2 soundtrack, a rock song that seemed to be following the band’s transition from from acoustic emo to sovereign rock band. It retained the sound of slower guitars that focused the crunch of punk and the melody of pop punk while Chris Carrabba pushed his vocals to soaring heights.
“Don’t Wait”, the first single off of Dusk and Summer was a softer ballad. The crisp snap of acoustic guitar, the aura of electric guitar and drums playing for rhythm rather than leading the song let me down on some level. It wasn’t the sound of a band testing their ability to refine their newly discovered rock sound, it was a band writing easier songs. It was a band delving into being in love instead of the prose that seemed to define their earlier career.
Songs like “Reason to Believe” or “Rooftops and Invitations” seemed more in line with what I had expected, but even then I saw them more as alt-rock radio songs than anything else.
That said, I listened to Dusk and Summer the entire season while on vacation between college semesters. I found love for the first time and never gave credit to this album for being my soundtrack for late night drives and hot summer days scouring creek beds. It spun on repeat, interrupting AFI’s “Miss Murder” and my long-awaited triple-disc album from The Early November.
Where Dusk and Summer shines is the innocence of its message. Chris Carrabba romanticized the feeling and memories of first love. It’s almost a concept album in execution, as it perfectly encapsulates the lust and obsession of feeling like the most special thing in the world to someone else and seeing them as the same. It also executes the realization that though a relationship may end, it doesn’t make those memories or emotions any less real.
During the title track, as he sings, “And she pulled you in / And she bit your lip and she made you hers / She looked deep into you as you lay together / Quiet in the grasp of dusk and summer / But you’ve already lost”, I can see myself, eyes-glazed, wondering how an emotion could be so powerful.
“Stolen” sees Chris sing, “I watch you spin in your highest heels / You are the best one of the best ones / And we all look like we feel / You have stolen my heart”. The grace of the lyrics, the sweet croons of violin and the gentle build-up of guitar swell the song to become one of the great love songs of the era.
One of the main themes of Dusk and Summer is letting down your guard for the experiences of love. “Don’t Wait”, the opening track, repeatedly begs amidst its chorus for the listener “to lay your armor down”. Conversely, possibly one of the most underappreciated songs on the album, “Slow Decay”, shows the consequences of doing so that doesn’t have a happy ending. What could be a conversation between a father and a son suffering from PTSD, coming home from the battlefield is also a lesson from father to son about coping with a fresh, failed relationship and the terrifying loneliness that accompanies it as you try to find normalcy again. For someone who hasn’t experienced it before, it can be devastating.
“You look so strong in that picture on the mantle you sent your mom when you were gone / But you look scared now, hollow eyed / When are you coming, when are you coming back to where you belong? / I swear that it’s safe here, there’s nothing to fear at all / Come on back to where you belong / The pressure releases if you just let down your guard”.
Dusk and Summer might emote the feelings of love and let-down that accompany relationships far better than the most heartfelt emo that has been praised for the that exact reason. Though I still have a tough time claiming it amongs my favorite Dashboard Confessional albums, the record means more to me every time I listen to it. While there are a dozen other albums that I would rate more important to me that came out in 2006, or even just during the summer of that year, Dusk and Summer might be the most memorable.
by Kyle Schultz
Kyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and literally just realized how lovely this album is while listening to it tonight. What an ass. If you see him, pelt him with shards of glass for waiting 10 years to appreciate Dusk and Summer.