Witchy symphonic dances to purge the inner demons.
Bonander’s debut album is something quite special. It’s a merger of the cinematic, the synthetic and the witchy to create a musical style that is bombastic, bold, celebratory and emotional. This is an album to play at high volume with the bass turned up and your soul on your sleeve.
I hate to be the lazy musical blogger but sometimes you need to anchor a reader. Imagine Florence + The Machine’s drumming with a mixture of strings, synths and Kate Bush’s voice circa Lionheart’s album and you’ll be in the right ballpark. When you hear the powerful drums rumbling of ‘Gone in the Wind’ you’ll be expecting a huge voice and melody to break into the music but it’s a different vibe. Instead of feeling like we’re having some alt-chamber-pop anthems, Bonander has a different style. The synths are more like something you’d hear in either a dance track (Ms. Mitchell) or something in an ethereal musical (Slumber Love). ‘Ms. Mitchell’ is easily one of the best should-be radio hits of 2021. It is so catchy without smashing a hook over your head and Bonander’s voice carries so much emotion.
Then you have the cinematic flip side. ‘Never Ask’ and ‘Mother’ are both centred around Bonander’s voice being turned into a ghostly choir. Add in some clever production that sucks in and out the vocals and you have a hauntingly beautiful weapon of musical manipulation. ‘Silent Lights’ is a bold, plodding, dramatic and sultry ballad. It wouldn’t feel out of place in a Bond movie. It also reminds me heavily of Alex Winston and her ‘King Con’ album both stylistically and vocally.
‘Annie’, ‘Backseat’ and ‘Then I’m Dead’ are symphonic pieces. The latter of these has a hypnotic string motif that circles around romantically as Bonander cries out ‘What if I run and never get there? Then I’m Dead.’ The album touches on lots of feminine tropes and views them through a different lens but I feel like this line in particular cuts down to the nub of the album. Wisely, Bonander shies away from the piano to avoid some of the stereotypical references I made a little earlier becoming more overtly obvious. Instead, just the closer ‘Ode’ brings us a piano and vocal piece and it is a stunning track. It feels lifted out of a gothic stage show and uses room reverb to create a glassy illusion feeling to it. The closing minute is an emotionally charged powerhouse tour of songwriting and performance too.
There is so much to enjoy from so many different aspects. Vocally, Bonander may sound angelic but there is a real power and energetic rush to her performance that elevates her music to new heights. It’s also a very well structured album that starts off heavily percussive and dark synth-pop inspired but transitions to a darker chamber-folk setting by the end. It feels subtle and natural yet you’ll have covered so much in 40 minutes. Put simply, Bonander is one of my favourite debuts of 2021. Seek her out.
Recommended track: Ms. Mitchell
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