Alt-country-ish chanteuse Haley Bonar is back with a sixth album of wistful and widescreen singer-songwriter business, ably assisted by a backing band including folks who play with Bon Iver, Tapes 'n Tapes, Alpha Consumer and Andrew Bird. Expect breathy-voiced prettiness with slick Americana arrangements.
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My, they grow up quick these days. My previous memory of Haley Bonar was of a winsome folk starlet following Charlie Parr round on a particularly grim UK tour having earlier caught the glint in Sparhawk’s eye. Fast forward several years later here she is, quite literally all over the 6 Music playlist, all grown up, Bon Iver-collaborating and Dave Grohl-thanking.
The record label has been ‘politely enquiring’ about what we think of this record for awhile now and its been hard to say that it’s not exactly caught light at the towers. It does, however, have some high water marks that justifies their undoubted enthusiasm. Bonar makes vibrant polished pop music that catches the ear, her strength being being the possessor of a sweet and seemingly elasticated voice. The strongest tracks are at the get go. If you know anything by Bonar it will be opener and ‘radio hit’ ‘Kill the Fun’ one of those songs that sounds kinda like The Cure and First Aid Kit at the same time with spacious arrangements and a sweetly ascending chorus. ‘No Sensitive Man’ pulses along pretty smartly with a chorus replicating Throwing Muses at their poppiest. The title track showcases Bonar’s voice whilst the (generally) four piece band Bonar has picked up along the way certainly have heard the odd shoegaze record, the instrumentation is crystalline and precise.
As the record goes on though there are sections where interest wanes. It remains tuneful veering between type of early 90’s alt rock made by the likes of Belly, Veruca Salt et al and slightly worryingly uninspired country-ish pop fair but just when you are starting to pine for the end, it closes with the gorgeous Low ish campfire singalong that is ‘Eat For Free’ where Justin Vernon’s trademark squeak is clearly audible on the final chorus.
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