New York-via-Texas alt-poppers Why Bonnie follow up 2020’s ‘Voice Box’ EP with debut album ’90 in November’. Now signed to Keeled Scales and recorded in the band’s hometown, the album finds Blair Howerton examining the pains and pleasures of modern life against a musical backdrop influenced by artists as diverse as Sparklehorse, Sheryl Crow and The Lemonheads.
Big drums and flourishes of piano combine on album opener ‘Sailor Mouth’, a song that finds Blair talking about not getting any sleep while waiting for the sun. This is swiftly followed by ‘Galveston’, a more country-tinged sound with recollections of an East Texas sunrise, a fat baby crying and the desire to die in peace and comforting surroundings: ‘I’ll keep coming back here, even when it’s all over’. Recent single ‘Nowhere LA’ is next up and this track – which comes across like a more laid-back Momma – finds Blair’s feelings very much at the front and centre: ‘I wonder why it’s hard to let you go’.
The title track is another nostalgic and wistful piece with bursts of cheery guitar punctuating the words: ‘Going once, going twice, now I’m sold’. ‘Healthy’ would be the perfect soundtrack to a cross-country road trip with its crisp and crystaline tones and harmonies about wanting to leave the house while ‘Sharp Turn’ is more fuzzy with stop-start lines and a killer bass line backing up stream-of-consciousness lyrics: ‘Sharp turn, cold burn. I didn’t know what I was looking for until I wasn’t even looking anymore’.
‘Lot’s Wife’ has Jeff Buckley-esque atmospherics with plenty of breathing space for observations on photographs, memories and the fact ‘I don’t trust the clock any more’, while the closing ‘Superhero’ is more fragile and glacial. Blair discusses feeling her heart grow bigger and finding comfort in the big blue sky – ‘That’s what loving you feels like’ – against a Bright Eyes-meets-Loney Dear backing with subtle yet stirring soundscapes.
It may be ’90 in November’ but Why Bonnie are hot right now. This is a marvellous, melancholic collection that provides an intriguing snapshot into life in – and out of – Texas.