Alejandro Rose-Garcia (aka Shakey Graves) announced his newest album Can't Wake Up (out now on Dualtone) with a simple message to his fans - “Next album. New sound. Sell your suspenders." That tongue-in-cheek statement, though, was a genuine attempt to prepare his followers for a major sonic shift for the Texas songwriter, who got his start performing as a one-man band, culminating with an Americana Music Awards win for "Emerging Artist of the Year" behind his breakout full-length album, And The War Came.
Now armed with a full band, Rose-Garcia leaves behind much of that stripped-down, folk-y sound. Can't Wake Up takes his songwriting in a "decidedly bigger direction" full of "lush indie compositions" (Consequence of Sound), drawing on another set of his musical influences, ranging from the Beatles and Harry Nilsson to Elliott Smith, Broken Social Scene, Built to Spill and other '90s indie rock bands.
Sitting down with Thrasher Magazine, Rose-Garcia explained what sparked the change in creative direction. "To get your head above water, you have to have an identity. I wore a cowboy hat and played a suitcase drum. There are tons of people who still imagine me as that guy, because that's the only thing they've seen," he admits. But on this album, he says, "I made something that I want to listen to." The response so far proves that it was a worthwhile risk. As NPR Music writer Nina Corcoran put it, he "gambles with the very formula that brought him fame," adding that "he pulls it off in large part due to his storytelling prowess; these songs would be welcoming, even enthralling, in any style."
Billboard was struck by Rose-Garcia's knack for storytelling, calling the album "a lyrical powder keg," while Brooklyn Vegan said it "ditches the roots rock vibe he’s been known for in favor of something weirder," adding "it's not the Shakey Graves you’re used to at all, and it’s very worth a listen." With a road-tested group of musicians and a hand-built stage set up complete with psychedelic lighting and props, Shakey Graves' live show has grown into something much bigger, too. "After smashing his mold on Can't Wake Up. Shakey Graves also revolutionized his live show," said the Austin Chronicle, describing a recent hometown set as "a seamless and compelling home run of a performance."
"Shakey Graves' latest reinvention is also his best," said the Dallas Observer. "[He's] never sounded freer, weirder or more in touch with his skill set."