Music Reviews

Haley Bonar

…the Size of Planets

Chairkickers’ Music

Having lived eighteen years of my life in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I can tell you that long winters can be a bitch. From what I understand the winters in Duluth, MN can be even worse. Listening to Duluth singer/songwriter Haley Bonar’s debut album only acts as confirmation.

Bleary-eyed fireside folk is Bonar’s stock and trade. Twinkling pianos soundtrack snowflakes falling and foghorn cellos sound around Bonar and her lonely guitar strum adrift in one of a thousand lakes. Ethereal and cohesive sounds shift back and forth, never quite reconciling.

At times Bonar slips into too much of a coffeehouse mode (“Bless This Mess,” “Drinking Again” and “Go Away Angels”). These songs tend to drag and make the album seem overlong at fifty-five minutes. However, the album does have shining moments of brilliance. “Car Wreck” builds around a dazed guitar loop supplied by Alan Sparhawk of Low with drums that pound and fade like a throbbing headache. Bonar’s voice stretches from a concussed mumbling delivery on the verses to wide-eyed clarity on the choruses.

“Sun Don’t Shine” is a slight, broken, piano driven-lullaby for the days when darkness falls in the mid-afternoon. It’s hard to disagree with Bonar when she sings, “I’m gonna get on a train and head out west, lose myself in the sand and the wine, ‘cause God don’t go where the sun don’t shine.”

“The Water” is infinitely lovely, with its funereal Rhodes piano, murky drums and the refrain, “That’s okay, I’ve always liked the water,” is Bonar’s screaming acceptance of her situation. On the album’s last track, “Lullaby,” Bonar is finally able to draw down the oppressive blankets of clouds from the sky and make them “in to new warm beds.” Lost in the silence behind a solitary piano, she proclaims both the cruelty and beauty of nature that surrounds her, having finally found peace. At least until next winter.

Haley Bonar:

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