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Dilly Dally - Heaven Music Album Reviews

Written amid a period of intra-band tumult, Dilly Dally’s thrilling second album foregrounds frontwoman Kate Monks’ singular voice as she riffs on themes of power, sex, confidence, and self-care.

In 2009, when high school pals Kate Monks and Liz Ball moved to Toronto to chase their rock’n’roll dreams, they got identical Dilly Dally tattoos even before properly starting the band. “The artist was like, ‘I really don’t think you should get these tattoos,’” Monks recently recalled in an interview. “And we were like, ‘We’re gonna be the biggest band in the world.’ We thought we were Oasis.” In pure feeling, if not quite fame, Dilly Dally’s ambition matches that conviction.

Every grain of Monks’ exhilarating voice tells a story: The singer, guitarist, and Dilly Dally’s primary songwriter is always bursting past a calculable edge; she is an amplifier turned to 11. Like a noise musician pushing power electronics into the red, Monks is an emotionally blown-out singer, and in her tattered voice she cracks, soars, gnarls, growls, drawls, slurs, rasps. Pain radiates through her and into the band’s songs, like the glow of burning charcoal.

Heaven is the quartet’s thrilling second album, and while Dilly Dally might still formally recall 1990s alt-rock à la Hole and the Smashing Pumpkins, their songs are noisier, more metallic, deconstructed. Monks’ raw rapture sets the comparisons at some remove. With her unwavering pop sense and keen way with a chorus, you can tell she is a woman who learned guitar through a Beatles songbook. Dilly Dally once covered Drake’s “Know Yourself” to delightfully grotesque effect, and as their fellow 6 dweller has posited: It’s not about who did it first. It’s about who did it right.

Dilly Dally wrote Heaven amid a period of intra-band tumult, and even as the album breathes deeply, its best songs betray those struggles. Heaven riffs on themes of power and sex, of confidence and self-care. But self-care is not soft on Heaven; it’s shrill, life or death, a leaden riff. These complex songs exhibit the care as well as the bleak cause that necessitated it. The roiling early highlight “Doom” swings from hushed dream-pop singing to dread-laden, industrial metal; the lyrics spin ominous uncertainty into New Age affirmations. “Remember who you are/And where you’re gonna be/What’s inside you/Is sacred,” Monks sings, contorting the last word into a guttural growl. On “Sober Motel,” Dilly Dally capture the overwhelming, nearly transcendent clarity that sobriety can beget. “When I’m sober/My soul comes screechin’,” Monks hollers, riding along the final careening syllables as if they were the last roller coaster on Earth.

“Sober Motel” feels of a piece with “Marijuana,” a song whose vividness tears you apart. As Monks sings sublimely of “angels” who “got ripped and torn apart inside of me,” heaven is clearly a joint: This is a woman’s impassioned love song to weed and its anxiety-quelling properties. “Couldn’t believe/What I see,” Monks sings on the ecstatic chorus, just before it crashes. “Couldn’t believe/Nothing but what’s inside.” As the song breaks down gloriously, “Marijuana” adopts a destabilizing feeling that is patently gorgeous, as if attuned to a deeper sensitivity of sound. Monks has said, “If the band died and went to heaven, this is the album we would make,” and “Marijuana” is indeed its most heavenly moment.

Monks penned “Sober Motel” as a “celebration of sobriety,” she wrote in a statement, “in the midst of an industry that is anything but.” Her hope was that its lyrics would become a mantra of mindfulness for the group, whose members have struggled with alcohol on the road, and “create a sort of protective layer around the band” at every show. Much of Heaven feels restorative in that way. But with “Sober Motel” especially, Dilly Dally subtly chip back at the ways music is exploited under capitalism. Its greatest element, as ever, is Monks’ rare voice—jagged, on fire, intoxicating itself.

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