Tim Dolan is an artist currently living in Los Angeles who recently released his second effort as a solo artist entitled My Railroad Valentine. His songs on this album are sparse, spacious and easy to appreciate. The songs were pretty poppy to my ears but Dolan isn't afraid to dabble into unique territory. On my first listen I thought the music was relatively simple revolving around major and minor keys, relative melodies and sparse instrumentation. The music proved more inventive as I dug in.
Up first is “Ty Cobb” which starts with a couple of strummed chords and vocals. He sings “He said, “I’ve got half a mind to let you know” Then reared back and let fly a torrent of blows / That left my eye a blue-black with a bloodied nose” and you can hear a tinge of Elliot Smith between the melancholy and overall sparse instrumentation. The chorus is memorable, and quite infectious.
Up next is “Sully's Pub” which is a lot more upbeat at least for awhile. The song has an Americana vibe at one point but also goes into dark areas that revolve around violin, piano and vocals. I like the dichotomy of emotion he was attempting on this track.
“Local 5:18” was about a minute long and felt like filler to me. It sounded like a build up and it would have worked except the next song “Santa Fe” didn't sound at all like what it was building up to. “Santa Fe” certainly had its moments with some transitions that really gave the song a different feel.
“The Trains Are On Time” is under two minutes long and may have been my favorite song because it sounded unique. I thought the background vocals were exceptional along with the handclaps. On top of that the vocal melodies were great. I thought this song could have been extended. It ends abruptly and it felt like it had potential to go into other places. “Beasts (5:19 PM)” felt a little traditional and familiar at first. However there are again some vocal harmonies that really make the song work later on. He closes with “Longfellow Bridge.” The song has its moments. He attempts to rock out with an electric guitar which feels like it needed some percussion.
Dolan is at his best when he isn’t afraid to experiment. Those were the times where I felt there was the biggest payoff and more importantly differentiated his music from other exceptional singer/songwriters.
Overall, this is a fairly cohesive and highly enjoyable album. That being said I think his master work may still be ahead of him.
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