Haley Bonar is a lady with stories to tell. If it isn’t her own back story, it is stories and characters that run through her songs. Something of a legend that surrounds her centres on her first being spotted at an open-mic night in Minnesota, at the tender age of 19, by one Alan Sparhawk, and a week later she was in the back of a car and on tour with him. The rest of her story is history. More worthy of discussion are the stories that run through her latest effort, Last War.
Though, it is probably wrong to call this new album album an ‘effort’, as making music appears to come so naturally to Bonar. She has gone from strength to strength, paid her dues and Last War is a testament to that fact. Each song is nurtured to perfection, where upon rock’n’roll etiquette is played out amongst charming melodies and passionately-charged lyricism. Powered by fuzzed up riffs and brooding vocals, it’s an excellently executed breath of fresh air. It neither tries to hard nor rests on its laurels; it is simply a creation that has come almost organically from Bonar’s fantastical imagination.
Heaven’s Made For Two is tantamount to this, with its ethereal resilience and climax of explosive energy. It seems to be made up of two halves, which – although heavily contrasting one another – mould effortlessly into one another. It’s a sign of the graft and talent of Bonar’s songwriting skill and her understanding of how songs can develop and become more than the standard structure. It really warms the soul.
There’s something very Rilo Kiley if not Neko Case about parts of the album. It has a deeply American feel that strikes right through the heart of this collection. It’s also deeply charming. From A Cage is one of those songs that really tells a story of the difference between characters and delves into these characters’ make-up and creates a completely encompassing and inescapable atmosphere – a feat hard to achieve through music and lyrics without coming across as corny.
It’s not just about the stories though. The music is about emotion, about exploring the highs and lows of life and the emotions that surround it. Whether it’s Woke Up In My Future, brooding with under-the-surface anger and frustration, or Bad Reputation, heart wrenching in its heartbreak, it bleeds with passion and lust and burns bright with a fire of hope and unutterable words.
This is an album that broods, glistens and bleeds with passion, emotion and most importantly, it is centralised by its soul. Everything is laid bare for the world to see, from the characters to the lyrics to the arrangements. Eat For Free draws the listener back into its deep-seated warm soul before preparing for departure. It’s such a refreshingly beautiful collection of songs that are made for late night solitary listening, as it’s contemplative and reaches right for that part of the mind that will leave you thinking for hours on end. Haley Bonar deserves to be recognised as a figurehead for new singer songwriters, as she bounds ahead of her contemporaries and keeps pushing the marker for how emotion can be conveyed through music. This album should be the one captures the attention she deserves.