Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Haley Bonar's Lure the Fox

Grade: A
Haley Bonar writes beautiful music. It is passionate, intimate and urgent. It is clear that she takes great care and pride in the precision and accuracy of her songwriting. She lets you in to her world of slow dances and low lighting.

She also lets Dave King and Chris Morrissey play on this record, who both do a commendable job filling out each song and adding each of their own little touches of King-isms and Morrissey-isms to each song. King's cavernous drums create the canvas for the room and Morrissey's smooth bass lines step back from Bonar's soft vocals, yet fill in the background giving the record body. Morrissey and King also interplay nicely knowing when to take a back seat and let Bonar's songwriting guide the record, pacing the album patiently - dare I say, appropriately.

The first track off the record, "Fox and Hound," seems to have inspired what is to follow. King rattles goat hooves over his floor tom while Morrissey plays a slow, pirate-waltz-ish bass line, swaying the ship to and fro as Bonar strums artistically at her jangley guitar. But what is the true cake-taker is her voice, which is remarkable to say the least. Complete with reverb-doused vocals haunting the space between her lead track and the rest of the band, there isn't a moment where she isn't perfect.

"Ransom" and "Give It Up" are the two single-worthy contenders. Both have the full band on heal, and Bonar is playing a Rhodes and even has a split-distorted guitar at each chorus. "Give It Up" is notably more upbeat while "Ransom" takes its time to develop - "Give It Up" even has a mild Aimee Mann feel to it, oddly enough. But other than these two, the album is mostly comprised of her and a guitar, which may be what she does best, but definitely what she does with the most heart. She's always scary, always pretty, and always a little sexy, which is a triumvirate of attitude that often proves difficult to pull off - or even impossible for that matter now that I think of it, unless Stevie Nixx counts. Well, no. She doesn't count. Furthermore, Bonar slurs her words smoothly over the soft and slow movement of each song decorating each with a delicate touch that effortlessly brings the work together as a whole. She even sets herself square to a legato cello at moments, making the experience that much more level.

"Captain Captain" is breathtaking and the best song on the record. Beginning with an ascending dual melody piano line that crescendos and retards back and forth, she keeps the pedal down creating a feeling of fleeting wishfullness. The song outlines the important moments of a runaway in such a manner that each scene can be easily imagined in slow motion with the frame of each moment faded into the next - I know it sounds over-the-top, but it is true. Bonar's voices is pure and sad, but filled with just enough desperation that she is almost reassuring; reassuring in the sense that if her desperation is as profound as she portrays, then it inherently must be hopeful; which, in turn, makes her music oddly opyimistic despite its overwhelming sense of sadness.

It seems that her gloomy musical demeanor is only matched by her equally gloomy sense of romance. Almost to the point where it is difficult to decipher whether or not she is singing about making love or committing a murder. I've never heard an artist croon the word "happiness" over-and-over with such distinct separation in each utterance: one moment she growls the word, the next moment she lets out a laugh (or a cackle, I can't tell) as she sings it through gritted teeth. It is clear that she means business.

Wishful thinking and unrest are common themes throughout as she stumbles over each relationship - and new town - in her life. She is growing up, but seems to want to do it on her own, apart from her past and far from her home.

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