A friend of mine told me today that he doesn’t like Haley Bonar because she moved to Portland, away from the Twin Cities. He was joking, of course, although when I informed him that Bonar had, indeed, moved back to Minnesota after writing much of Golder, he didn’t seem particularly surprised. It seemed inevitable. Bonar’s sound – pillared by her pretty country-twinged voice, poetic lyrics, and travelin’-song guitar work – should remind more than a few Iowa Citians of another Minneapolis singer-songwriter: Caroline Smith. (Note: seeing Bonar live at The Englert on July 1st, will hopefully feature none of the white wine-swilling “whoooo!” girls that attend every single Caroline Smith show in Iowa City. Cross your fingers!)
But back to the record – Haley Bonar is an excellent songwriter. The opener “Candy Machine Gun” is fun and poppy, her vocalizing stretching out like a highway, bringing to mind a cross between Fleetwood Mac and Andrew Bird. “Raggedy Man” displays Bonar’s sense of economy in songwriting. Clocking in at two minutes, she dangles the hook in front of you, because she just knows you will bite it, that she will catch your ear. “Daddy” gives a shot of pathos in the middle of the album and “Money” follows that up with a quick country stomp that sounds like a good revision of “Cassadaga”-era Bright Eyes, all Americana and sarcastic.
In the end, Golder feels like an excellent “shuffle album.” There are no weak tracks, not a single one, but the whole feels less than the sum of its parts. Put these thirteen songs on a playlist, let them emerge to you at random, and each one will consistently blow you away. However, they threaten to lose their edge if consumed all at once.