Instagram Soundcloud Spotify

Such is the Facility of Her Gifts – “Impossible Dream” by Haley Bonar

Haley Bonar
Impossible Dream
GNDWIRE, Thirty Tigers

Written by:

Walking quietly, with no less an indomitable force of spirit or voice, through a door most recently opened by Courtney Barnett, St.Paul-based singer-songwriter Haley Bonar (which rhymes with ‘honor’ she helpfully tells us), having found her way up a 15-year-long walkway, has arrived at the wider world’s doorstep with an album filled with sufficient enough wit, assurance, and down-home luminosity to ensure she’ll be welcomed inside and eagerly. And while owning a discography that dates to 2001 would seem to turn that rhetorical mention of Ms Barnett on its head, we’re stubbornly sticking with it and here’s why: That same level of personalized, easy cartwheeling power we associate with the phenom from Down Under – not to mention having a similarly inveterate touch with what we in the biz call a ‘tune’ – is on full display in spades and diamonds and whatever other suit, um, suits you.

Now, it’s true you can’t throw a rock in the rock world without hitting a ‘singer-songwriter’ in their earnestly furrowed brow but few-to-rare are those that so surpass the typical expectations elicited by that over-used hyphenate that you forget it altogether. It isn’t that Bonar’s broken the template but rather, it would seem, that she had little use for it in the first place. Whether it’s the slinky sultry bass groove that anchors the dark-chimed earworm “Your Mom Was Right,” the churning pop marvel “Kismet Kill” that Tanya Donnelly has to be crazy sad she didn’t write, the gliding punch and yearn of opener “Hometown,” its placid lilt of a hook barely papering over (and in fact enhancing) the lived-in honesty that frays its edges, Impossible Dream, without exaggeration, quite quickly begins to add up to being one of 2016’s sleeper Top Ten of the Year selections, and certainly among the most refreshing.


Ranging from sylph and moody momentum builder “I Can Change,” its romantic desperation worn on a bristling sleeve, to “Called You Queen” that we swear sounds like a lost Undertones track if the lads from Derry had decamped to Nashville and swapped out Feargal Sharkey for a young Dolly Parton (plus it boasts the perfect line “Excuse me sir, do you have a light? I know that I can be dark“) to atmospheric banger “Jealous Girls” with its off-the-cuff Spectorisms imagining an updated Ronettes, to “Skynz” that figures out how to be both autumnal and pulse-quickening, “Impossible Dream” embraces an all-over-the-placeness that gathers over the album’s course into a singular holistic focus as all the most memorableĀ of such albums do.

With the crucial assistance of your basic ‘basic band’ – Jeremy Hanson on drum, his brother Jacob producing and trading bass and electric guitar duties with the masterful Jeremy Ylvisaker (last heard on these pages in The Cloak Ox) – this record seems nothing less than the manifested aspiration to prove Bonar’s status as one of this country’s most fully realized songwriters. Though showing less need to guard against her vulnerabilities by flaunting a tough streak, she actually rather reminds us, via the flaring, unflinching honesty of her midwestern sensibilities, of Chrissie Hynde, such is the facility of her gifts. It’s little wonder that she so impressed Alan Sparhawk back at the turn of the century he immediately invited her to tour with Low. Now it’s time for the rest of the country, like us here at SEM (and the folks at NPR, the Guardian and various other outlets), to catch up, finally, to this sparkling talent shaped by what we now must all agree is the inexhaustible well of musical artistry known as St Paul, Minnesota, an extravagant claim the incontrovertible proof for which one need look no further thanĀ this one arresting singer-songwriter.

No exaggeration.