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Irish Alt-Rockers Embrace the Past and Look To Future in Debut Album
If Not Now, When Is A Sonic Tapestry of Seasoned Observations
Following over a decade of diligent rehearsal, and an accumulation of sometimes wistful experiences, Irish alternative rock band Dakota 66 has finally discovered the wisdom they were meant to share. This comes in the form of their debut album release, If Not Now, When, which narrates the sentimental feelings of hope, love, friendship, and loss that lead singer J Gallagher has discovered throughout. This album sees Gallagher reassuringly usher the audience by candlelight through each emotionally-charged room as he nostalgically paces through the oaken floors and shifting walls that represent his life. The intricate guitar work of Brian Grace, coupled with baroque piano/synth arrangements scattered across the track list cast fluttering light throughout each space as Gallagher’s poignantly veteran lyricism and fully fleshed-out vocal descriptions create the walls and furniture of each soundscape.
Perhaps the greatest lesson Dakota 66 has learned is exactly how to balance the tension inside each moment to deliver compelling hooks. Grace, as well as bassist Brian Curran showcase an extraordinary attention to detail with their interwoven and often polyrhythmic performances. This attribute can be observed at its best on tracks such as “Popcorn,” “Surfing the Rails,” or single “Bubble” where Radiohead-esque riffs consistently explore the liminal space around the sonic home to establish feelings of both angst and tranquility. Their agile strumming impeccably compliments Gallagher’s indecision in the face of old memories resurfacing, and lasting relationships being evaluated.
The album turns a leg from its musing beginnings with an almost punkish resilience in the second half as Gallagher searches for a sense of peace. Dakota 66’s sonic versatility is most apparent at this point with the band adopting both youthful perspectives, and funkily swung tempos on tracks such as “Reeling Back the Years,” and “Who’s That Man.” While this juxtaposition may seem out of place on first listen, these songs represent a greater introspective understanding from the band and serve as hopeful anthems for those seeking to feel in control in the face of the upheaval that can come with aging. The following track, “Billy,” perfectly summarizes this conclusion, where Gallagher, accompanied by haunting synths, scraping guitar, and the energetically precise drumming of Thomas Leonard, is able to peel back the metaphorical layers of a larger-than-life figure to discover his own ability to reach this status.
Despite the emotionally affecting content throughout the album, Gallagher’s vocal delivery and positive outlook consistently maintain a congenial atmosphere for listeners. His sentiments of reconciliation with the past reign true, and this is most evident on their stand-out closing track, “Shine.” Clocking in at nearly seven minutes, “Shine” is a reverbed ballad that definitively posits the contributions of love to his current state of contentment. Its explosively soulful chorus evokes an unyielding catharsis that characterizes a stopping point to the collectively experienced stirring odyssey. This moment, as with the rest of the album, is the product of the ten-year journey it has taken to release. It is clear, however, that “Shine” is not an ending point for the band’s story, but rather an open opportunity to continue spreading their discovery of love and friendship.
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