Haley Bonar

Holding hands across the sea

laughing at the future that was hanging from the trees

weekending in Camelot

we’re getting pretty good at being something that we’re not

– Haley Bonar, Kill the Fun

Haley Bonar was something of a surprise to me. As a local Minneapolitan and Current listener, she was one of those names I always heard but could never put a sound to. I am lucky enough to remember exactly how Haley finally came into my life. I was listening to the Current when I heard her song “Queen of Everything.”

It blew me away. Haley is representative of the shifts in my taste in music in the last couple years. It’s got folk roots, to be sure, but Haley brings a rock sensibility and instrumentation to her songs that would have put me off a while back when I was an acoustic purist.

While I quietly throw through the air

all your little jokes

Any smoke from any old fire

will keep my trash heap stoked


Did I mention I may forget

why I even came?

I’m addicted, so I’m absolved

of any costs and pain

We’ll always be

stars with million-dollar guns

We eat for free

we put on a show for everyone

– Haley Bonar, Eat for Free

So what do I love about Haley? She uses a simple chord progression, but she knows how to put an irresistible melody over it. “Queen of Everything” is one of those melodies that sounds so simple, natural, and right that you wonder how no one has put it down until now.

I also love Haley for the transcendent moments she puts into her songs, brought to life with her deceptively quiet voice. Check out the chorus to “Big Star” :

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/39459222″>Haley Bonar – “Big Star”</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/cakein15″>CakeIn15</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

This is one of those songs great for listening to late at night as you drive along an empty highway under the starlight. It just rips the emotion out of me. Even as I sit here writing this, I’m getting teary-eyed for no reason I can readily explain. So much music fades into the background with familiarity, but getting to know Haley’s music feels more like falling slowly in love.

Haley’s lyrics are understated but reward deep inspection and paying attention to.

We began where we began

Same old story with a different plan

Same old woman meets the same old man

And they knock each other out

– Haley Bonar, Candy Machine Gun

For a song that brings it all together, check out “Candy Machine Gun,” possibly my favorite Haley song. From the “Ohs” at the beginning, to the simple chords, to the arpeggio-ish melody, to the lyrics that are both narrative and poetic at once, it showcases everything that makes Haley one of my favorite lyricists, musicians, songwriters, and overall artists.

The image that comes to mind when listening to Haley Bonar is smoke or fog charged with light. Her music is the fog, and her voice cuts through it like colored light from above – it changes the fog, makes it distinctive, but doesn’t overpower it. Her voice is definitely part of something greater – it makes it cohere, gives it focus, but is always a part of something more.

Check her out. You won’t be sorry.