Serbian-Canadian songwriter Dana Gavanski’s debut album ‘Yesterday is Gone’ started to take shape from her bedroom desk in Toronto, a city new to Gavanski. She had not long emerged from a break-up and with roots not yet planted in the soil of her unfamiliar home, she was able to implement 9-5 office hours to craft her debut. It was only through injecting such routine and rigour that she learnt the unreliability of creativity, that it can’t be induced with timetables and calendar slots. A phenomenon she explores on ‘Catch’, an epiphany-like moment where she acknowledges the flubber-like quality of creativity, how it slips and slides through your fingers. “You have to be able to let things happen, to accept losing control”, she declares.
It’s little wonder that the resulting record incorporates both the control she originally plumbed for and the exploration that came after. Its songs each possess a slowly bobbing rhythm and a loping, Patsy Cline-like bass, they all sail off course from here though, their individual peculiarities coming to define them with repeat listens. ‘Trouble’ is initially centred by dirge guitars dipped in black oil, however, its ending sees Gavanski indulge in prog-rock; cartwheeling synths and a wider instrumental meltdown helping you to picture an endless vista. ‘Everything That Bleeds’ has elements of desert rock that Queens of The Stone Age would be proud of, ending with Gavanski and co galloping off into the wilderness, the brass becoming mangled and disorientating over cantering drums. ‘Other Than’ may start sparely but then out of the haze in strides a kaleidoscopic chorus reminiscent of fellow Canadians Tops at the peak of their powers, for a moment you’re invited to slip the shoes off your feet and let go. Gavanski has always been passionate about her Serbian heritage and she submerged herself in it in the autumn of 2018, obsessively listening to high-energy Kafana and café music. Something which I’m sure surfaces in these peculiarites, in how Gavanski uses the backing ‘ahs’ and ‘ohs’ of her bandmates to frame her songs.
During those months spent reconnecting with her Serbian heritage, Gavanski took singing lessons to learn how to sing with the resonance that defines traditional Serbian song. Her voice is pleasingly off-kilter, its innate eccentricity delineating her from the pack. Her words have an oddball quality too, ‘Yesterday is Gone’ sees her process a break-up and reckon with herself in a way only Gavanski can. She’s adept at penning short statements that leave questions hanging in the air, “Everything is also nothing” she declares on ‘Small Favours’, ‘How can I be good instead of bad?’ she questions ambiguously. If one thing comes through most clearly on ‘Yesterday is Gone’ it’s that there’s rarely a resolution, questions rarely have a direct answer, indecision and unknowing are a mainstay in the human experience. Once we accept that upward and inward growth can resume.
Contrarily though Gavanski does close ‘Yesterday is Gone’ with a clear conclusion. “Memories of winter / long stalls in the park / now the birds sing summer / as our love fades in the dark” she sings on the sparse closing track. She has worked through the remnants left behind by her past relationship so much that it can now be untied, floating off into the air with the changing of seasons. Gavanski looks out at her future with relish. We do the same.