Dala Seeks a Pop Path


Everyone is Someone

Compass 7-4548-2

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Dala is the Canadian folk/pop duo of Sheila Carabine and Amanda Walther. They have been working hard to try to break into the U.S. market, where they’re not a household name though they’ve released five records and have been nominated for several Juno awards, Canada’ s equivalent of the Grammys. Everyone is Someone is actually from 2009 and is their fourth recording, though it’s the first one to get wide U.S. distribution, thanks to a deal with Compass Records.

I can see why this record, not their forthcoming release, was chosen. Dala is often billed as an acoustic folk duo that writes original material and performs covers of icons such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Gordon Lightfoot. Everyone is Someone, though, is a pop recording. It’s shimmery, chirpy, and bright; it’s also processed, slick, and loaded with additives. The good news? Carabine and Walther have lovely voices, harmonize like angels, and are so bubbly that they defy cynicism. The record is infused with youthful energy and confident charm. Those over the age of 30 might surprise themselves by finding one of their tunes rattling around inside their brains in the sector where guilty pleasures are stored. This leads me to the downside. Because this is mostly a pop record, it opts for flash over depth. The songs are catchy, but there’s a lot of yeah, yeah, yeah and la, la, la filler that betrays the fact that there’s more bounce than Baudelaire in the lyrics. In fact, the record often feels like a collection of singles demos aimed more at producers than audiences. The production is laden with overdubs, bathed in sonic mood enhancers, and airbrushed to aural perfection. I’d be surprised, in fact, if offerings such as “Levi” and “Northern Lights” don’t get test-driven as possible singles.

To be clear, I’m not saying the lasses shouldn’t pursue a pop path; if this record is any indication, they’d raise the genre’s quality bar. I too fell sway to their infectious attraction and wish them luck. I would, though, like to hear some of the material that’s less pop and more folk. As enjoyable as I found this record to be, there’s an ephemerality to the material that makes me doubt they’ll be performing much of it in another five years. –Rob Weir


The Movie Drive Never Gets Out of Park

Didn't I see these reflections in Taxi Driver?

DRIVE (2011)

Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn

FilmDistrict, 100 mins. R (language and brief nudity)


One of the annual rites of spring is moaning over films and performances that should have been nominated for Oscars but weren’t. Both Drive and its star, Ryan Gosling, show up on a lot of such lists. But this time the Academy got it right; neither deserved a nod. I have no idea what critics gushing over this film saw, as it's a one-trick blood-spurting pony that wastes several good actors.

I like Gosling as an actor and think he deserved Oscar consideration for Blue Valentine last year, but it’s hard to get excited about his acting chops in Drive if, for no other reason, he only has about a dozen words of dialogue. This movie is a lame rip-off of Taxi Driver (1976) in that each film features a silent lead who spends a lot of time cruising the mean urban streets, each wishes to be virtuous, but each is driven to acts of unspeakable violence when they must save an imperiled young woman who deserves better than life has dealt her. Drive spends a lot of time with Gosling behind the wheel and many of the shots look gorgeous, but that’s because the glaring headlights, the reflected neon on wet streets, and bouncing light through the windshield are also lifted from Taxi Driver. Shall we say that when it comes to direction, Nicholas Winding Refn is no Martin Scorsese?

The plot, such as there is one, revolves around Gosling, known simply as “Driver.” He can do anything behind the wheel, but not much else, hence he’s a low-paid Hollywood stuntman who supplements his income by being a mechanic and a wheelman in heists. He’s also a man of few words whose only close associate is Shannon, the guy who runs a garage at which he works, though even Shannon hardly knows Driver. Gosling will, however, do a good deed for Irene (Carey Mulligan), a mom trying to raise her small son Benicio, whose father, Standard (Oscar Isaac), is in jail. Driver begins to fall for Irene and Benicio, the latter presumably because he, like Driver, has only recently graduated from having been pre-verbal. Driver tries to step away when Standard gets out of the joint, but is drawn into a scheme to help him pull off a robbery to get clear of debt he owes to some mob figures. Driver agrees to be the wheelman so that Standard, Irene, and Benicio can have a shot at domestic bliss. It all goes very wrong due to a double-cross involving an attempt by one West Coast crime boss (Ron Perlman) to bilk another (Albert Brooks) and steal a million dollars from an East Coast syndicate. Driver is forced to turn avenger in order to save Irene and Benicio.

There’s not much in Hossein Amini’s script that explains why Driver cares, and Mulligan, another actor whom I normally like, doesn’t do much to spark chemistry except to look doe-eyed and vulnerable. That’s not her fault; she only has marginally more dialogue than Gosling. We’re supposed to find everyone mysterious, but because none of the characters have depth, they exist only as foils for the sort of ultra violence one associates with films such as Straw Dogs, Reservoir Dogs, and A Clockwork Orange. The most creative moments in Drive involve Gosling’s methods of offing bad guys in graphic ways–not much on which to hang a plot unless you enjoy a glorified splatter film. Gosling’s performance in Drive is reminiscent of the sort of schlocky roles that Nicholas Cage takes these days. He’s buff, he’s bad, and he’s covered in blood…. Drive is a gruesome film that never gets out of park.


American League East Preview

The American League East is MLB’s elite division, and not just because of the dominance of East Coast media markets. The top four teams are, simply, stronger than any other division can hope to field. The Blue Jays, for instance, whom many people pick to finish fourth (not me!) would win the NL Central and they’d run away with the NL West. Consider that under MLB’s new Wild Card format, three AL East teams would have been in the postseason, and you get the idea.

In order of last year’s finish:

New York Yankees:

Good: Teixeira, Cano, Jeter, and Alex Rodriquez have been and remain the best infield in baseball. Curtis Granderson has adjusted to the Bronx and is a superb player. Brett Gardner can fly and is probably the best defensive left fielder in the AL. Hideki Kuroda will solidify the pitching staff, Michael Pineda looks to have talent to burn, and even at age 42 Mo Rivera sets the standard for closers. CC Sabathia is one of the best pitchers in baseball. He doesn’t always put up gaudy numbers simply because he doesn’t need to in order to win.

Bad: It’s an old club, which makes durability an issue. A-Rod’s albatross contract makes it hard to add pieces when necessary and he’s simply not worth $32 million, especially given the precariousness of his health. Andruw Jones as a fourth outfielder? Why? I’m not impressed by Raul Ibanez as DH; I’d rather see if Jorge Vazquez can hit major league pitching.

Hot Seat: Young Mr. Pineda needs to justify trading away the club’s top prospect. Rafael Soriano must show he’s recovered from his arm woes or his Yankees’ contract will be the last big one he ever sees. Phil Hughes was supposed to be another Roy Halladay; word is that he either steps it up now or he’s gone. A-Rod was supposed to break Barry Bonds’ homerun record (762). He’s an old 36 and needs 134 more. I doubt he’ll catch Babe Ruth (714), let alone Bonds or Aaron. He must have a healthy and productive year or he’ll hear it.

Prognosis: Barring major injuries, pencil in the Yankees for one of the postseason slots.

Tampa Bay Rays;

Good: As it’s been for the past five years, pitching. Who wouldn’t want a staff of Hellickson, Price, Shields, Matt Moore, Wade Davis, and Jeff Niemann? Wow!

Bad: Anyone in the starting lineup not named Evan Longoria, Matt Joyce, or Ben Zobrist, the latter two of whom are merely good, not spectacular. I’ll be damned if I see the attraction of Carlos Pena. Sure he hit 23 dingers and knocked in 80, but $10 million for .225, 111 hits and 161 strikeouts? Luke Scott might help, but he doesn’t hit for average either on a team that last year was just 23rd in team batting average.

Hot Seat: This is Reed Brignac’s year to prove he belongs at short and not in AA. Kyle Farnsworth has never been consistent and must prove he can be. And then there’s mystery man B. J. Upton, the guy who has been the cusp of stardom longer than Matthew McConaughey and is every bit as overpaid.

Prognosis: The pitching is good enough to cover many flaws, but if one or two of the staff has an off year, it will be a DNQ year for the Rays, which is what I think will happen. There’s simply no depth to the lineup.

Boston Red Sox:

Good: The lineup is potentially fearsome: Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury, and lightening rod Dustin Pedroia. Jon Lester is among the premier southpaws in the game, Alfredo Aceves is versatile and valuable, Clay Buchholz looks as if he might become what the Yankees’ Phil Hughes hasn’t. Cody Ross was a great addition.

Bad: Chemistry. How will the Sox adjust to their historic collapse? Will Bobby Valentine light a fire under them, or induce a backlash that further entrenches the rotten ‘tude that sank the team? Let’s just say that Josh Beckett’s “apologies” have sounded neither deep nor sincere. The catching is uninspiring and shortstop looks to be a gaping hole unless young Jose Iglesias hits higher than his weight (175 lbs.). The Daniel Bard experiment doesn’t hold much promise. I said the Sox should have traded him two years ago; this year I think he’ll prove me correct.

Hot Seat: Bobby V, whose reputation vastly exceeds his results. If he hasn’t mellowed, it will be a short and tumultuous term in the Olde Towne. Beckett either mans up or is gone. Andrew Bailey must replace Pabelbon as closer; many don’t think he’ll survive the Boston media piranhas. Carl Crawford? If the seat gets any hotter his rump will catch fire. For reasons that escape me entirely, many within the organization are waiting for Youkilis to falter so they can toss him aside for Will Middlebrooks. I’d like to be the GM to catch him; a healthy Youk is Wade Boggs with a better glove and more power.

Prognosis: The Red Sox are the biggest mystery in baseball. They should be hungrier than a boatload of refugees, but they’ve been lackadaisical thus far. This baffles me. These guys have got to know they’re gone if they don’t produce. There are only two outcomes for the Red Sox–win the AL East or wait for the moving van.

Toronto Blue Jays:

Good: I’d hate to be a baseball and have Bautista, Encarnacion, Lind, and Colby Rasmus take hunks out of me. And this doesn’t even include emerging players such as catcher J P Arencibia, Brent Lawrie, Yunel Escobar, and Rajal Davis. Improve the on-base percentage (OBP) and this lineup is terrifying.

Bad: The pitching is maddeningly inconsistent, starting with Ricky Romero and Brett Cecil, guys who are untouchable one night and batting practice hurlers the next. The Jays were in the top ten in nearly every hitting category, except hits and OBP. They were in the bottom five in most pitching categories and the defense was 18th.

Hot Seat: If the bad numbers were a product of youth, the Jays are going to be a very, very good team this year. If, on the other hand, they are the numbers of prospects who were overhyped, it’s another fourth place finish. All of the pitchers need to improve, but none more so than Brandon Morrow, Dustin McGowan, and Kyle Drabek, especially the latter. Drabek was the linchpin of the Roy Halladay trade and his 2011 ERA was over six; that’s simply unacceptable.

Prognosis: This is my hunch team. I look for the Jays to shock the experts and make the postseason.

Baltimore Orioles:

Good: An outfield of Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and Endy Chavez isn’t too shabby. Matt Wieters is just getting started. When healthy, Brian Roberts is a terrific bat. J. J. Hardy is also capable.

Bad: The pitching was dead last in ERA and near the bottom in most other categories. It’s simple: if you pitch badly, you lose badly. Count me among the Mark Reynolds detractors. Here’s what you get for 32 homers: an appalling 196 strikeouts, just 118 hits, and 36 errors. Ugh!

Hot Seat: GM Dan Duquette has his work cut out for him. Arrieta, Britton, and Matusz all look as if they need more time at AAA; instead they’re the 1-3 starters. Will they figure it out before their confidence is shattered? The odds are increasingly long.

Prognosis: Finishing fourth would be a huge step forward. But it won’t happen.


1. Yankees (Conditional upon the Red Sox not recovering)

2. Blue Jays (Yep--going out on a limb)

3. Red Sox (Beckett is poison and should have been traded)

4. Rays (Pitching galore but can’t hit John Goodman’s butt with a barn door)

5. Orioles (Can hit but not early and often. Can’t pitch garbage into a bin.)