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First Play: Shakey Graves, Can't Wake Up

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Jess Huddleston

Alejandro Rose-Garcia, a.k.a. Shakey Graves, delivers on what the Austin, Texas artist promised would be a "new sound" with his latest album, Can't Wake Up.

Emerging from his rustic 2014 breakout album And The War Came and its followup, Nobody's Fool, Rose-Garcia takes listeners deep on a trip inside his psyche with this genre-melding fifth effort.

“This record is the most I’ve ever intentionally worked on a project, musically speaking, in terms of the scope of it and how much thought went into it,” says Rose-Garcia. “It’s a dense album; there’s a lot of information going on.”

The above statement is exemplified in its song-to-song variation, which feels like a time-hopping stroll down memory lane that twists in and out of different revelations Rose-Garcia has come to over the years. From the chugging balladry of album opener "Counting Sheep," into the psychedelic "Climb On The Cross," his laissez-faire state comes to life in lyrics like, "If nothing dies tomorrow/ Why remember yesterday/ When an hour more of sleep might do you good."

At just 30-years-old, with what will be five albums released in seven years, perhaps the most potent sentiment throughout Can't Wake Up is Rose-Garcia's acceptance of slowing down or, maybe more aptly, allowing himself the time to really imagine. Whether the Beatles-esque "Dining Alone," the twangy "Backseat Driver" or the whimsical lull of "Foot of your Bed," Rose-Garcia interlaces references to fairy tales with his own musings on wasting time, adventuring, letting go of yesterday and living in the now. It's as if he's in a lucid dream, and maybe isn't trying to wake up.

"I wanted it to be vaguely Wizard of Oz-themed, and I wanted it to be hectic and a little uncomfortable," says Rose-Garcia.

To accurately paint the many different pictures within Can't Wake Up, Rose-Garcia and his band also went on a physical journey. “We went to Levon Helm’s barn and studio in Woodstock, Kevin Costner’s ranch on the Roaring Fork River outside of Aspen, the Belmont Hotel in Dallas, and one final trip to Echolab Studios in Denton," he says. "The patchwork quilt of it all really feels like the last few years of my life leading up to the birth of this record. This was a new process for me, and a game-changing one.”

Rose-Garcia nods to Canadian icon Neil Young on the beautiful "Big Bad Wolf" where, in between memories of his upbringing, he sings, "I guess I'd rather burn out than fade." What's happened on Can't Wake Up is neither burnout nor fade; while the record is a culmination of dreams and experiences, the result is actually a feeling of beginning.

“The beautiful lesson of all this is having to trust yourself, to be willing to start something that you don’t know the outcome of,” Rose-Garcia says. “Or to lean toward something just because it feels right, even though it may not be what you originally put down on paper. Those are the kind of stories in this record."

Can't Wake Up is out on May 4 via Dualtone Records.

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