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FIRST LISTEN: Dana Gavanski – Late Slap

Dana Gavanski is an artist that feels familiar. Her voice is warm and nourishing, nostalgic of modern folk vocalists like Cate Le Bon, Jessica Pratt, or an early Angel Olsen. This isn’t to say Gavanski’s artistry isn’t unique in its own right, but her new album Late Slap can feel like you’ve heard it before, even though there are great moments which embolden her take on pop music. 

 The first track ‘How To Feel Uncomfortable’ is definitely the highlight of the album. The instrumentation is minimally tasteful, packing a punch in all the right moments and Gavanski’s vocals come to life with newfound energy. There is a great sentiment in the lyrics even if the chorus can feel excessive at times. The song paints an accurate picture of our current reality– the paradoxical dilemma in which people have access to almost anything at their fingertips but still struggle to unearth what’s most important. In modern society most people of privilege are able to consume at an astonishing rate, yet all of their newfound comforts and commodities separate them from feeling truly alive. And of course phones are a part of that– they are the blocking agents which allow us to filter ourselves from the present.

The second track ‘Let Them Row’ expands on the message in How To Feel Uncomfortable, lamenting the human defence mechanisms which make us detach, dissociate, and separate from our hearts. The melody is soothing, almost maternal, and the chorus resonates with a bittersweet hum as Gavanski sings, “And I row my heart away/ We keep our house clean/ But we can’t fight the flea”. 

At this point in the album it’s hard not to notice a pattern emerging. Gavanski continuously references sorrow and emptiness with the same descriptors. In ‘Late Slap‘ Gavanski sings, “Like the sun you escaped/Left me this hole”. In ‘Ears Were Growing‘ the chorus echoes the same message– “I’m tired of feeling low/Open to letting go”. Near the end of the album songs like ‘Ribbon‘ also follow suit. She sings, “Hole in the day, hole in the doorstep, hole in the bedroom, hole, let it go/ hole on the page, hole in the corner, hole in the ceiling, hole, let it go”. It’s one thing to have a theme that prevails throughout a body of work, but the storyteller has to act as a shapeshifter to avoid redundancy.  

All in all, however, the album contains many nuanced moments. ‘Singular Coincidence‘ has the most brilliant line: “But I was born with an instinct/Before I could forget it was all new to me”. She grapples with her pain beautifully, like in Dark Side where she invites her despair to join her as a friend. Even though the melodies stay consistently neutral and the song structures are rarely bold enough to surprise you, Late Slap can make your heart soar. Gavanski’s emphatic song writing is good for the soul and can offer up bits and pieces of wisdom along the way.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.