Dala: Everyone is Someone

[9 October 2011]

By Arnar Eggert

Dala, a folk-pop duo from Canada, have been at it for nine years now, yet Everyone is Someone is its first major release outside of their homeland. Sheila Carabine and Amanda Walther met in their high school music class and quickly bonded over shared love of music and wrote their first song together in 2002.

Their first record was then released on independent label Big Bold Sun Music in 2005 and the group was swiftly snapped up by Universal which released Angels & Thieves in the autumn of that same year. Who Do You Think You Are followed two years later. The duo has been making quite some ruffles during the last months and their recent live album, Girls From The North Country, earned them their first Juno Award nomination.

Everyone is Someone has a nice calm aura around it as the songs embrace the listener, characterized by Carabines and Walthers smooth harmonies. It’s strategically constructed, opening with the stronger, catchier numbers but fading out with somewhat weaker tracks. The album opens with “Lonely Girl“, a big, dramatic song with world weary lyrics. It’s a curious—you could almost say a brave—opening move as the track is a bit non-commercial.

It’s followed by the similar “Alive”, but then we enter a more bright and optimistic space. The girls lead the track in a hushed, controlled manner. This one-two punch is impressive but the third track, “Crushed”, doesn’t hold up the momentum, swaying too much in the direction of a late period, sterile Clannad. The album hits its lowest point as soon as the fourth track, “Levi Blues”, Dala’s bid to FM popularity. They’re selling themselves short here. A shame, as this is the only song which could be considered bad. It sticks out lika a sore thump, really.

The rest is more balanced, if a bit uneventful and uneven. “Horses” is probably the pick of the bunch, a poignant, touching malady. The other songs vary between sorrowful synth ladden dirges and poppier affairs. The album closes with a pointless remix of “Levi Blues”.

This album is clearly a mainstream bid for the band, but at the same time its focus is not that clear. It seems like the band or the producers behind it are not quite sure which direction to take. At times Dala can sound like seasoned songwriters with decades of experience behind them. In other instances, they sound like a diet version of the Indigo Girls, which is not a compliment, I’m afraid.

These contradictions are the albums main flaws, but the material—and the talent—is clearly there. I guess it’s just a question of molding it right the next time around.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/148903-dala-everyone-is-someone/