Usually, duets (and collaborations in general) yield intriguing results. In the case Dally Bon Idyll, the newest creation from Billy Rousseau & Dahlia Gallin Ramirez (calling themselves Billy & Dolly here), the end product is full of quirky yet touching songwriting and delicate and thoughtful production. There’s a great sense of vaudeville fun, too, which helps make the music feel both warm and wistful.
The San Francisco duo first broke through the indie music scene in 2004 as the “heavy, Moog-centric” The Monolith. Since disbanding in 2009, Rousseau and Ramirez decided to focus more on acoustic instruments, such as guitar and piano, and less on electric trickery. Citing influences like Donovan and Simon & Garfunkel, this new formation seeks to priorities rich yet fragile harmonies and folksy tales of love, loss, and nostalgia. The follow-up to their debut, In the Beginning, Dally Bon Idyll is a refreshing and moving assortment of engaging music and enlightening songwriting.
“Oh Yeah” opens the record with playful staccato piano and Rousseau’s charming, slightly airy vocals. Eventually, drummer Alex de Carville (who was also part of The Monolith) adds some ethereal percussion. All in all, it’s a fun way to start things off. With “Gold,” the duo seems to be channeling great 60s rock riffs like the one in the Kinks’ “Picture Book,” and on songs like “When the Sun Comes Up Tomorrow” and “Old Ghost,” Rousseau’s voice captures much of the same brokenness as Sean Lennon’s pained timbres. Of course, Ramirez’s contribution adds a lot to the simple harmonies, and the latter song is especially poignant.
Subdued cellos help give “Young and on the Way Up” a luscious sound, while “Out of the Middle” features superbly vintage sounding country guitar. The reflective middle section of “Now I See,” with its touching keyboard drones, is a highlight of Dally Bon Idyll, and the direct catchiness of “End of the Agers” is a delight; in fact, it, like a lot of the record, bares a spiritual closeness to the criminally underrated work of Scott Miller (Game Theory, The Loud Family). Finally, “Awful and Better” gives the album a concrete closure with which to end.
Dally Bon Idyll is a confident and perfectly constructed record. Billy & Dolly clearly write and perform with a shared vision and determination, and fans of sorrowful tales channeled through welcoming folk rock aesthetics should find plenty to like here. The subtle traces of grunge, rock, and pop help make it fairly unique, too, as well as timeless. The duo seem s to be soaring higher than ever, and only time will tell just how far they’ll go.