Album Review: Dala - Best Day
By: Dan MacIntosh
Most of the time, Dala sounds like a more acoustic Tegan & Sara and much smarter Wilson Phillips throughout this pair’s album, Best Day. Comprised of Sheila Carabine and Amanda Walther, these two Canadian singer/songwriters from Scarborough, Ontario harmonize beautifully on an 11-song collection. It’s 11, that is, if you exclude the silly outtake, “Too Many Kittens,” which comes off like one of those drunken Replacements covers, when the band was too drunk to play songs all the way through without messing up or cracking up, and just too wasted to care.
These pretty looking and lovely sounding girls show off their intelligence particularly on two of these tracks. One is “Lennon and McCartney,” which alludes to a relationship where the girl digs Paul McCartney, of course because he’s the more romantic side of that Beatles team, while the guy goes more for brainy John. This guy is an oddball character. He takes her dancing, but doesn’t dance himself. He’s also a bit of a record collector. “He buys records for the virgin vinyl/I scratch ‘I love you’ in the grooves,” they sing, naughtily. The song is sung over a lighthearted, plunk-y piano groove.
The acoustic guitar-driven “Virginia Woolf” reveals a literary appreciation. “I’m not afraid of Virginia Woolf,” the song begins, and then continues with, “But I’m running scared from the words she wrote.” You’re left with the impression these singer/songwriters aspire to being Virginia Woolf-like songstresses; especially when they speculate, “But all this glory might just lead to stories.” [Note to self: never marry a songwriter. Amend this note to the one about never dating Taylor Swift].
Dala might answer the unasked question, ‘Where are all the young Emmylou Harris’s?’ This is because Carabine and Walther are so much more ambitious than many typical country singers. A prime example of what these two do so well is found on the album’s title track. It’s easy to give self-help advice by spewing out a predictable stream of clichés. It’s far more challenging to turn such advice into poetry, however. On this one they sing, quite poetically:
When you grow up
You’re going to be
More than you ever dreamed of.
And if you get lost
Lead the parade
And then you’ll never be afraid.
They sing these deep words in a gently, slightly jazzy tone. However, the concept of leading the parade and learning to become self-sufficient, in order to fend off fear, is a heavy thought. This is so much more meaningful than merely saying, ‘Just do your best.’ Anybody can say that, and probably has. However, suggesting leadership as the best fearless life path is truly powerful.
Few will confuse Dala with diehard country music. Honky-tonk beer guzzlers won’t likely dig them unless they’re too gone to notice the subtle differences between folk music and country. However, great songwriting is what makes country music great most the time, and these two talented girls clearly know their way around a smart lyric and a memorable tune.
These gals sing so pretty, it’s easy to take their songs for granted. Don’t let the shiny wrapping distract you, however. Open up what’s in the package, and this new album may well give you your best day in a long time.
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