Collapsing into bed after a long day, my mind is still racing as my body is ready to give under the weight of trying to maintain some balance in life. When I wish the knots digging holes under my shoulder blades will show mercy, I turn to an album that can offer me advice. Can’t Wake Up by Shakey Graves is a compendium of dreamy indie rock that reminds me I’m not the only one who can’t shake free from the nightmares everyday life can hold. As Shakey Graves explores a plethora of sounds from sleepy ballads to slapstick storytelling, the listener takes a stroll through bizzare tracks that reflect humanity’s most relatable hopes and pitfalls.
Each song in the album contains a unique sound through offbeat tones, lyrics, and messages that tell a new story every time. When we navigate life, we all come across the realities of growing up, a theme introduced in the laments of “Kids These Days.” In “Dining Alone,” we listen to the story of a man reliving the same day, the repetition leaving him longing for more. “Night is to day as death is to dreaming,” in Shakey Graves’ surreal album. With the twisted torture of palindromes in “Aibohphobia” we are wrapped in relentlessly clever word play. Among cops, robbers, fairytale figures and sleep paralysis monsters who watch you dream, Shakey Graves has never been more creative in lyrical storytelling, instrumentals, and background vocals.
A mix of eeriness, relatability, and longing leave the listener crawling over every lyric, picking out allusions to popular tales we were told as children that we now must heed the warnings of as adults. Through this dizzying and alluring album, the listener might wonder — from fantasies like the cautious Scarecrow or power hungry Big Bad Wolf, can some lesson be learned before making another wrong turn in life? Through every switch in the style of sound, Shakey Graves makes each track as unpredictable as life itself. In Can’t Wake Up, one can take a walk through the ominous woods or a creepy mansion, drifting to the conclusion that perhaps it’s not too late for us to wake up before making the same mistakes as those we’ve seen come before us.