Dawson Fuss Drops EP

No one can claim that young performer, musician, and songwriter Dawson Fuss isn’t engaged with life. His new five-song EP Maybe makes it abundantly clear. Fuss steeps his art in the everyday concerns and experiences common for any nineteen-year-old. What makes it uncommon, however, is the mature perspective he has on those aforementioned experiences and concerns. Fuss is not interested in writing about life in a distanced or facile manner. He is fully invested in each of the EP’s five songs and dispatches them with a sense of stakes. It makes this brief but meaningful release one of 2024’s must-hear efforts.

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“Growing Pains” is an inspired choice for the opener. It acts as a sort of thesis statement for the overall collection. There are several brilliant lines scattered throughout the lyrics. “Why don’t these growing pains/give my bones a break?/I’ve been feeling too big for my body…” is a brilliant introduction to the chorus, and an insistent piano underpinning his vocals infuses the lines with an added sense of urgency. The near-boundless earnestness of his voice through lines such as this carries over to the rest of the song.

There’s a serious message delivered with a smile that powers “Life Sucks”. Another superb quality of the track is how Fuss inverts the typical structuring of a pop song during the opening minutes. Instead of low-key verses followed by a boisterous chorus, Fuss goes in the opposite direction at first and dials down the arrangement’s intensity for his first pass through the refrain. The remainder of the song has a high-stepping style. However, the clever songwriting opening the track lingers with you long after the song concludes.

Jagged, angular lead guitar lines help punctuate “Maybe”. Also, it’s another example of Fuss’ distinctive songwriting shining on an EP full of such moments. It’ll be the release’s peak for many listeners. Rarely has a songwriter, especially one so young, written about the transition from childhood into adult life with such aching sensitivity to that shift. We’re accustomed to hearing much older songwriters regard it from a position of hindsight.

The finale “Say the Words” has judiciously used electric guitar contributions. It’s primarily an acoustic-focused tune of leave-taking, and those moments when electric guitar powers through give its sentiments additional impetus. The sensitivity of Fuss’ vocal phrasing is a highlight for a final time. He does an excellent job of giving voice to love’s frustrations when two people who should be happy aren’t on the same page.

It’s a fitting conclusion for an EP that’s full of searching and questions. We leave Maybe satisfied because it’s clear that Fuss acknowledges and, more importantly, accepts that he doesn’t have all the answers. You can’t say enough about the point of view inhabiting these five songs. He writes with authority about life’s conundrums and gives everything of himself over to each of Maybe’s cuts. It’s an outstanding second release from this California native, full of life, melody, imagination, and glistening with a future that has never been brighter.

Chadwick Easton


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