I haven’t listened to any hype, press release, or reviews of the album Things We Don’t Talk About by Bonander. I wanted to come to this musical soundscape without any bias. It’s a good thing I did it this way because this album hit me like a wet mackerel across my face.
So, here goes my interpretation of this album, along with a few quotes from the artist herself, Bonander.
The opening strains of music on the opening track have a beautiful layering and echo of voices along with what I interpret as a digital tape loop. It is a short and sweet introduction to what is about to unfold in track two.
Gone In The Wind opens with gentle singing and soft keys that build within the first chorus. Only to slam into me with percussion too strong to ignore within only a few lines. The vocal styling is more urgent on Gone In The Wind than on Never Ask, which is perfect because of the lyrics. There is an edge to walk carefully within Gone In The Wind. “People called you crazy; I just called you wild.”
Kris Kristofferson wrote a song with eerily similar lyrics and an equally dark story. “Some folks called him crazy, Lord, and others called him free.” Gone In The Wind is the album’s most dramatic track. It is about a toxic relationship with someone you counted on as a friend. The pipe organ and strings are the most dynamic instrumentation on the album. Bonander tells us that “The fact that I sing the song in two octaves represent that suppressed feeling of rage and frustration, that later in the song is set free.”
Track three is titled, Martha. Could it be John Lennon imagining something and doodling on the piano? Perhaps it is Martha My Dear, a tune from him and three other scouse lads. Wherever Martha originated is a silly game. This song, Martha, is an ingredient for road trips and coffee bars. Powerful, Bonanders voice rips through the music and demands to be heard. It pulses and moves with an intensity that keeps me hanging on and hitting repeat.
Ms. Mitchell is next up, and it resonated with me due to my appreciation for astronomy, an excellent addition to my universal playlist.
The next track is called Backseat, sonically it builds and builds and drowns us in the music of long car trips and us kids falling asleep in the backseat of the car. That was OK when we went with Mom; she had a Chevy Bel Air, and the back seat was comfortable and big enough for a couple of kids to pile onto and fall asleep. My Dad drove a Mercury pickup truck, and falling asleep in the back was almost impossible. I like the use of Swedish in the last chorus. I have never been to the land of my maternal grandparents. From conversations with family who have been there, it sounds like it would be similar to some of the long road trips that my family have taken in Canada.
Annie is an interesting song. I love the cello and the feeling of darkness in the music. Here is what Bonander tells us about this track.
“Generally, both “Annie” and the upcoming singles contain more vulnerability and resignation than the anger that the EP “It’s A Girl“ rather consisted of, an exploration. The music deals from a feminist perspective with questions that have no clear answers. Take Annie as an example: One of the first female snipers in the southern conservative United States. That is – she was badass. But she also liked armies and worked for a female army to be created. For example, she gave no support for female suffrage and probably lived according to other shabby values of her time. She was a human being, neither “good” nor “evil.”
Bonander explains: “The lyrics are about meeting Annie in a kind of mysterious dream and trying to understand her better and worse sides. I wonder what she was thinking! On the one hand, she spent her entire life proving that she could shoot “just like the men,” on the other, she thought it was important to maintain gender norms in other ways.”
Now, keeping true to the mystical and poetic storytelling that’s surrounding her, Bonander displays a more fragile side of her songwriting with the new single “Then I’m Dead.” The song is an honest description of one of the songwriter’s biggest fears, the lyrics speaking for themselves. Bonander explains:
“We create this absurd demand for us all to post a perfect exterior on social media, create our dream life, and that nothing is impossible as long as you work really hard. But that’s the point: things are impossible sometimes, and that’s OK. And there is this human worth in everyone, despite how many hours a day you work, or how flawless your Instagram profile is.”
Arranged for a pump organ and string quartet, an organic and fragile sound texture is laid before us. The delicate arrangement meeting intimate lyrics creates a dream-like quality that doesn’t feel entirely safe—like a soft breeze steadily growing into a restless storm. Bonander tells us: “You can hear the treading that keeps the organ alive. In the string quartet, I tried to fashion the idea of a machine that builds up into this train of semiquavers, like a machine that gets stuck on repeat. I had real fun working with these instruments.”
Mother described by Bonander:
“A chant for the most powerful force in this world. To my mother, to your mother, to everyone’s mother and their struggle, their emotional investment, their viability and the important time they’ve put into all of our lives. I sang this song live with a couple of friends in the church because motherhood is as close as a religion that I’ll get. I want to get that live feeling of a chant, a song you can sing together, and then make the electronic soundscape clash with the acoustic one at the end.”
I couldn’t have said it better. I have a lot of respect for mothers in general. And an extra shot of love for my Mom and my wife, who is also a mother to our son.
The album Things We Don’t Talk About gave me lots of things to talk about, even if it was me talking to myself or a keyboard. Bonander closes the album with the achingly beautiful Silent Lights and Ode. It couldn’t have been any other way. It is the perfect ending to an album that brought me close to tears while soaring with loving and longing memories.
Things We Don’t Talk About is released through the label Icons Creating Evil Art
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