The recent explosion of sad pop has brought angsty music to a new generation. However, it wasn’t all that long ago that emo rock was carrying the angst banner forward to the 90’s generation—and before that, punk rockers aired their malaise through song. The unfortunate truth about angst though is that we never outgrow it. The nature of the beast just changes its shape with time. It’s with hearty reflection on the past, a realization of where the present has led him, and the challenges of navigating what’s yet to come that Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba presents us with a matured form of emo rock on the band’s latest album, All the Truth That I Can Tell.
Released through Hidden Note Records/AWAL, All the Truth That I Can Tell is Dashboard Confessional’s first all-new LP in four years. Throughout, there are several hallmarks of the band: complex lyrical contemplation, laden with emotion, and set to anthemic chords that easily hook the listener. It’s also heavily acoustic, a trait that we’ve seen in the past with both Dashboard Confessional’s works, as well as Carrabba’s solo projects. However, the record is clearly written from a different perspective than where our minds usually take us when we think of emo rock. Instead of coming at topics like growing older, struggling with mental health, working through relationships, and overcoming struggles with a blind rage, All the Truth That I Can Tell has a distinct edge of contemplation and hope. The album embraces the middle-aged struggle of reconciling with our past and becoming more aware of the limits of our future. However, it leaves you with a sense of resolve that these challenges can be conquered since we’ve already made it this far.
The album itself will make you keenly aware that the term “infectious” is overused in music reviews. Here, All the Truth That I Can Tell is indeed the proper time to use infectious. Listening to the album from front to back, there wasn’t a track that warranted skipping. To the band’s credit, even those tracks that don’t have an immediate hook seem to magically find a way to pull you in. Whether you’re an “album person” or not, you’ll likely find yourself pressing play and then realize 41 minutes and 48 seconds later that you’ve listened to the whole thing.
Track highlights start with the stripped down, yet deeply powerful opener, “Burning Heart.” The song only consists of hard-strummed acoustic guitar and Carrabba’s vocals; however, those impassioned vocals remind us why Dashboard Confessional holds such an honored place in emo rock. A couple tracks later, “Here’s To Moving On,” switches to more gentle guitar riffs as Carrabba’s emotive vocals take on a more hopeful hue. While the album was mostly created in 2019, it’s impossible not to feel like this song has become the anthem to Carrabba working to recover from a devastating motorcycle accident in 2020. Apparently, the band has felt this link as well as the accompanying music video ends with a thank you to the healthcare workers who helped him through that time.
Although the album is built around acoustic themes, there’s still a few tracks that touch on the band’s rock roots. “The Better of Me,” is the closest to vintage emo with its use of electric guitar, a head nodding beat, a driving drumbeat, and emotional strain on the edges of the vocals. The mental-health-tackling, lyrical standout, “Pain Free in Three Chords,” may be led by acoustic guitar, but there’s underlying electric and harder rocking drums that give it a powerful punch.
While the word “emo” has been used a lot so far, it’s certainly not fair to pigeonhole All the Truth That I Can Tell into one basket. Indeed, if a different band had put out this album, descriptions like “folk rock,” indie rock,” and even “Americana” would likely be used more often. Nothing highlights this better than, “Southbound and Sinking,” a track that blends the straight from the gut lyricism and rock riffs of Springsteen, meshed with an earnest delivery like we’d expect from stomp and holler bands like The Lumineers or Mumford and Sons. The gentle closing titular track, “All The Truth I Can Tell,” blends minimal acoustic and electric elements to create a sound more akin to a blend of Band of Horses and Fiona Apple—certainly not emo in the traditional sense. However, no matter what we call it, the song is beautifully done and a great conclusion to the album experience. One might think that this would have been a perfect “hidden” track back in the days of CDs.
It’s been four years since the last Dashboard Confessional album and the band clearly had some emotional ground to cover on All the Truth That I Can Tell. They use their time wisely, giving us a record that feels deeply personal, like a floodgate of emotion pouring forth after being held in for too long. And, in true Dashboard Confessional fashion, they do it in an infectious way that gives you plenty of opportunities to shout along to the angsty lyrics.