Album Review: A Dotted Line by Nickel Creek

Zain Beverly, Radio Intern

This week’s review is of the progressive acoustic trio Nickel Creek’s A Dotted Line. It’s the sixth studio album from the trio and it marked the 25th anniversary of the band. They’re a big name in the folk world, with their 2003 album, This Side, winning a Grammy. The band took a hiatus in 2007 and came back seven years later in 2014 to make this album. It’s got some beautifully crafted folk tunes with a couple… interesting cuts as well.


Album cover art for A Dotted Line by Nickel Creek


Track-by-track review:


  • Rest of My Life – The first track of the EP is a slow and meandering ballad about a drunk recovering from a night he “lost” to his drinking. The song instantly shows off the intricate balance that Nickel Creek can strike with their trio of a mandolin, violin, and guitar. The three’s instruments flow together beautifully along with their smooth three-part harmonies. The song is just great.


  • Destination – Destination is a tune with a lot more energy and forward momentum than the first track, with quick licks from each band member’s respective instrument. It’s like every instrument has its own tune to play and it comes together in a great way. I guess I could say that about most of these tracks. Just assume I think that from here on out.


  • Elsie – This is the first instrumental track of the album and it has a very classic folk-country feel. The violin’s lush draws lie behind the echoing mandolin and guitar for a really solid tune.


  • Christmas Eve – This track is a touching tune about not being unable to move on from a relationship. It’s more of the same from the other tracks here, great harmonies and interesting acoustic progressions. This track builds into a spacey segment at the end which made it stand out from the bunch.


  • Hayloft – This track is a cover of the song, you guessed it, Hayloft by Mother Mother, a Canadian Indie outfit. When I first heard the track, I didn’t know it was a cover but I could tell it was VERY different from the rest of the album and even their whole discography. It’s a lot more poppy than anything else here and it’s an interesting aside, although I feel like it’s pretty out of place on the album.


  • 21st of May – This track has my favorite guitar riff of the entire album, and it’s the first thing you hear. It’s a riff you hear throughout the track and I freaking love it. The song is in the style of a spiritual jubilee, talking about meeting the “savior in the sky.” The song is a slight sting at the “predictor of the apocalypse” Harold Camping. He claimed that massive earthquakes would rock the world on the 21st of May in 2011. It’s a fun song with a, and I have to say it again, killer little riff.


  • Love of Mine – This track is about the love of love itself, to an unhealthy degree. It’s helmed by Chris Thile, one of the titular trio, Nickel Creek. He’s the more eccentric member of the band, and this songwriting has his name all over it.


  • Elephant in the Corn – This is the second and last instrumental of the album and it’s quite the experience. First off, it’s quite theatrical in its instrumentation. It really paints a vivid picture in your head through it’s exaggerated riffs and melodies. The band really shows off some technical skill here and it’s a delight to listen to.


  • You Don’t Know What’s Going On – This track has a pretty different feel. I would almost dare to call it pop-punk in tone and energy, though maybe not instrumentation as it still features the acoustic trio. It’s got a great energy and really sticks out from the other originals on the EP.


  • Where is Love Now – This last track is a cover of the song Where is Love Now by American singer-songwriter, Sam Phillips. It feels much more in line with the band’s modus operandi and works really well with Sara Watkins leading the vocals with a tender performance. It’s a soft and mellow end to the album.



Summary: A Dotted Line by Nickel Creek is a superb display of technical skill and writing ability from the trio. Each track is worth a listen if you appreciate the craft of folk bands. Though not every track feels like it fits cohesively within the whole package, each one has its own strengths. My personal favorites that I would suggest anyone check out are 21st of May, Elephant in the Corn, and Rest of My Life, in that order. Seriously, if you like folk music or want to get into the genre, and you haven’t heard of Nickel Creek, then check them out!




4 / 5 Sails