Review: Still Life by Dawn Golden

Dawn Golden is the stage name of musician and producer Dexter Totoriello (also of the duo Houses with girlfriend Megan Messina), formerly called Dawn Golden and Rosy Cross for an earlier 2011 EP titled Blow. I actually discovered the Chicago native in 2014 opening for Chino Moreno of Deftones’ solo project Crosses (†††) in his hometown, right before the Still Life album came out. He recovered gracefully from technical issues to play one of the most gorgeous electronic live sets I’ve ever heard, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Still Life, his first and so far only full album under the Dawn Golden name, came out on Mad Decent/Downtown records in 2014 after 3 years of careful crafting, and it shows. Dexter’s work in both Dawn Golden and Houses are beautiful examples of mixing and production with a very unique, hazy, well-thought out ambiance. Minimal beats and simple vocals are offset by very atmospheric, melodic background noise and sometimes unidentifiable instrumentation. Lyrically, there’s a consistent and poignant personal honesty, touching topics such as drug addiction and unhealthy relationships, using artistic metaphors and beautifully descriptive truths.

Best Track: While the most popular song by far from this project is definitely the emotive and romantic All I Want, Sleight Orchestra is a stand out for me. The main instrumentation seems to be a remixed and warped sample of a train passing by; and this combined with an upbeat drum sample, ambiguous but emotional lyrics, and melancholy vocals creates a unique track that feels dreamlike and surreal.

Worst Track: I still can’t figure out the point to Chevrotain, coming in as just over 4 minutes of directionless, un-imaginative instrumentals. It doesn’t fit on the album at all in terms of sound or mood, and conveys none of the emotional intelligence of the other tracks at all.

Would I hit repeat? Oh yes. This is one of my favorite albums of all time. While I’m personally very rarely the kind of person to sit and listen to an entire album in one sitting,  nearly every track fits together perfectly as one cohesive work, and I personally think the majority of it is best enjoyed as part of the whole.

Also check out: Blacks from the Dawn Golden and Rosy Cross EP, Blow.

Where can I get it? You can purchase it on the Mad Decent site as a physical copy, or get it from iTunes, Amazon or Google Play. It’s also available for free streaming on SoundCloud and Youtube.

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