Haley Bonar ‘Impossible Dream’ – Can we change? Can we stay who we are?

I first heard Haley Bonar’s impossibly powerful song “Last War” which really blew me out of the water. I recently read that she got this kick in the butt-sound after she had her child and I have to admit, I was like ‘whaa?’ because I always think of all those former aggressive rappers who became fathers and suddenly release one shmonzy song after the other. But then I thought of Shara Worden who is a mother and whose recent album features some of the most powerful today, so I guess it’s just dudes that get all soft and all the ladies are like: I MOTHERFLIPPIN’ PUSHED A HUMAN BEING OUT OF MY UTERUS, FEAR ME NOW!

Anyways, “Impossible Dream” is a masterwork. I talked about Bat for Lashes’ concept album last week and although Bonar’s album is more of a short story collection than a novel, there are definitely themes interwoven that create a certain nostalgic atmosphere that is very endearing. In the middle of it is Bonar, telling stories about her youth, her parents and the kind of stories you hear, experience and mingle until they are universal stories of everyone of us.

Her themes revolve a lot around change. How much we change when we look back. How we don’t change enough when we’re faced with something tremendous such as parenthood. How much we want to change to become better people and how much we change into the lesser versions of these ideals. How much our faces change and even how much the past changes the more we look at it through the present lens.

Yes, I am getting a little melancholic and cheesy here, but fortunately for you (and me), the music itself is not nearly as drippy as my ramblings.

In fact, songs like “Your mom is right” are the kind of country-infused rock songs that give a new meaning to this music genre with a bad reputation. In a way, this song sounds like the rebellious, dark cousin of Blake Lively’s country. The one that sneers, that knows more and tells more. Oh, it’s so mean but also true, it’s what you need, even if it makes you uncomfortable. And yes, your opinion on what your mother knows has changed as well over the years. That’s why you watch “The Wonder Years” now and side with the parents.

The nostalgia is strong with this album. It’s a timeless piece and it even plays with that notion, because again, this album talks about change. Remember how you dreamed as a teenager what you will become, how rich and famous and smart and popular and amazing you would become? This impossible Dream is now sometimes flitting through your head. But was it ever something that actually would have worked? Is it even that bad that it didn’t work out like that? The redeeming part of Bonar’s stories is the fact that no one really knows whether the past really was that better and whether it is only our own insecurities that make us feel as if we should have done differently. But in the end, the dreams were not only impossible to reach but also impossible to be as fulfilling as back then in our bedrooms at night.

Songs like “Stupid Face” nicely juxtapose the sadness and aggression that all these changes can bring. “How did I get so mean”, the narrator asks, “I miss the heart that does a cannonball into a frosted lake”, the trust and openness that lie in raw teenage emotions. The realization that these are not immune from flaws. “Our future tastes to bright that our teeth are dentyne white”, Bonar sings in “Blue Diamonds Fall”.

It is this humor and the love for the past and present selfs of all the protagonists she creates in her songs that renders this album special. The music is amazing and especially works whenever Bonar goes for the bigger sounds (one heartbeat of silence in “Jealous Girls” right after the line “they burn the sheets while you rest your head”, oh, remember the 80s) and it all gets tied together with these beautiful stories that are full of real people, real emotions, real dreams and real regrets. All of them impossibly possible for the listener.

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