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Album Review

DALA
Who Do They Think They Are

Not too many people in the States could tell you who Dala was before this year's Newport Folk Festival where they earned a short stint on the main stage after stealing crowds during their set on the smallest. Hell, not too many could tell you even now, but they'll get there. You don't get asked to play the main stage at Newport. You are scheduled. The crowd reaction there is the stuff of legend and if it doesn't turn media heads, the media is as dead as a lot of young people think. Tell you what, let us assume that they are. Let us bypass the talking heads and their oppressive machine--- step over their twitching carcass, so to speak--- and walk toward the light.

Now, clear your head and toss every lame prejudice you've ever had about Canada aside, keeping in mind that Canadians practically own Hollywood (the good part and not that overblown lame part). That's right, Dala is Canadian, but if you have any sense of pop or even melody in you, it won't matter. Their voices, twins though not identical, are at times enchanting, at others ethereal, but always in sync. One smooth like silk and the other soft like velvet, you sometimes have to listen hard to distinguish one from the other but when they blend it is pure Crown Royal (the only blended whiskey I drink straight up, it is so smooth). Lucky for us, they blend a lot.

My first exposure was to their 2007 release Who Do You Think You Are, received a couple of weeks before this year's Everyone Is Someone and I have not had a one-two punch quite like it in some time. Good pop is a balance of melody, harmony and hooks and there is enough on these two albums to float a battleship. You want a caravan of what they used to call AM hits, they're here. Light pop with spacey instrumentals, incredible harmonies and a good beat? Line them up: Anywhere Under the Moon (the harmonies would make Rhiannon-era Fleetwood Mac happy), Marilyn Monroe (Junior High magic even adults can love), Don't Wait (more Junior High magic--- ah, to be young again), Alive (another Fleetwood Mac-like beauty)..... Like the softer side? Try Hockey Sweater (Everly Brothers harmonies and a bridge that rips my heart out, it is so beautiful), The Sweetest Ones (just Dala doing what they do best--- harmonize), Crushed (almost hymnal in structure with bottomless background vocals), Stand In Awe (the title should give you a clue), Horses (“...they don't care that I am broken...”).....

This video was recorded at the University of Waterloo in November of 2007. I include it instead of other more professionally recorded videos because it separates Dala from the chaff. If you can pull it off raw (like they do here), you have the goods. Posted on YouTube by jordans2006. My thanks.

You probably guessed that they can sing (or that at least I think they can), but let me tell you something about songwriting. It ain't easy. Some writers nail the music, some nail the lyrics, but seldom do you see writers constantly nail both. Well, here you go. Not a bad track on either album thanks to an ability to handle a wide variety of topics from Junior High life to romantic angst to True Love. Hell, they even mention hockey and Winnipeg! I tell you, you hear these albums and you will remember Amanda Walther and Sheila Carabine (who are Dala) and Mike Roth, who helped write a number of the songs.


Mike Roth, in fact, deserves way more than a cursory mention. His production is slick, true, but you need slick production to pull off Pop like this and he pulls it off in spades. Not one knob twisted wrong, not one note out of place. An amazing job.

You know how you can tell when Pop is as good as it can be? When the do-do-do's and the la-la-la's and the na-na-na's add to rather than detract from the song. Simple as that. You're probably thinking, oh yeah? In this case, oh yeah, and then some. I positively love Pop when it's done right and this is it. Dala has given me 22 excellent examples of why music is as strong as ever. They deserve to be stars. They're on their way. And I honestly think they might make it.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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