90 in November
Indie band Why Bonnie are stepping off the beaten path with their first full album ’90 in November’, solidifying themselves as a force in the world of indie rock. Why Bonnie is made up of singer and songwriter Blair Howerton, Sam Houdek on guitar, Kendall Powell on keyboard, Chance Williams on bass, and drummer Josh Malett.
“90 in November” starts incredibly well with the track “Sailor Mouth”, perfectly encapsulating the complex styles this group is capable of. The song begins in a cohesive yet driving 3/4 meter – giving the song the immersive feel of switching between sea waves – as the meter is strongly associated with waltzes. “Sailor Mouth” then has a change in tempo to the typical 4/4 meter that listeners are more familiar with before Howerton’s serious lyrics kick in. Howerton’s sound combined with the full texture of the band’s sound creates a great introduction for listeners into the world of Why Bonnie.
The titular track of “90 in November” is another standout track from this album, highlighting the dynamic texture of sound Why Bonnie is able to produce successfully. Throughout the song, Howerton’s voice plays a beautiful call and response with the guitar line as well as the piano part.
Despite her accomplishments, “90 in November” illustrates how Why Bonnie still has ways to grow and progress throughout her career. Unfortunately, the groups of songs that play one after another on the album blend into one another with few distinguishing features. For songs like “Healthy” and “Sharp Turn”, the songs have similar instrumentation and vocal styles, making them hard to tell apart.
Also, a quality pattern exists on “90 in November” as an unconscious trade–off occurs between lyrical complexity and musical depth. If the song has a rich, thick texture, the song has poorer lyrical composition. On the contrary, if the song is a great lyrical piece, then the musical complexities are lacking. This wide range of quality songs featured on “90 in November” is disappointing, especially when there are so many songs on the album that showcase the band’s prolific ability to create a vast and complex sound.
The song “Galveston” in particular demonstrates the pinnacle of Why Bonnie’s ability to create an involved sound with the interdependence between the main melody and the backing melody. The song also has the interesting detail of including an organ as opposed to a piano as the band normally does in their songs. Truth be told, this song is also one of the few examples of a song on the record that is both musically alive and lyrically complex.
“90 in November” also demonstrates that Howerton unfortunately has a very limited number vocal range with the majority of his vocal tracks sounding exactly the same. In each track, his voice has the same intonation, the same vocal quality as well as the same editing that is done to him.
On a large scale, “90 in November” is extremely engaging for the listener. About half of the songs retain Why Bonnie’s signature thick texture and off-the-beaten-track instrumentals. Despite its flaws, the album highlights the vast potential of Why Bonnie in the years to come, that is, once they have refined their sound.