Austin is the epicenter of many things. Food trucks and trailer food, Tex Mex, and, of course, it’s the heart of the world’s indie music scene. From mega festivals like SXSW and Austin City Limits to producing artists like Spoon, The Black Angels, Shakey Graves, Shearwater, and Explosions in the Sky not to mention legends Willie Nelson and Janis Joplin, the Texas capital is THE place where music thrives. Where music is revolutionized and taken to transcendent places. So when a band emerges from the city’s vast community of artists and encapsulates what Austin is about, people take notice. This is what is happening for Why Bonnie, the project born from the mind of Blair Howerton.
Earlier this year, they released an outstanding EP, In Water, which took dream-pop to more blissful places. Their second extended player in less than three months, Nightgown, is equally tantalizing. Demonstrating the ingenuity of their hometown, the quintet share two versions of “Gold Rush”. The first is a gorgeous dream-pop approach that integrates the shoegaze serenity of Lush with the sun-kissed summery tones of Big Thief’s biggest anthems. Howerton’s saccharine vocals hover over the superb instrumentation, which grow into a wonderfully delirious climax. The second version is a remix. While the pulsating beats give the track a club-like vibe, Why Bonnie still make this rendition feel intimate and embracing.
The band get euphoric on “Hollow Moon”. A jangle-pop-rock vibe immediately emerges and fills the air, creating an effect that can only be described as jubilant. It’s a song made for late-night gatherings and summer road trips, where memories are made. Howerton’s lyrics, too, are filled with memory, as she recalls days of “skipping stones” and being told how important she was. But instead of a fairy-tale ending, hers is one of heartbreak. She delivers it in a way, however, that hides her pain and, instead, celebrates what is to come.
In the heart of the record is “Stereo”. It is a jaw-dropping, gorgeous number that is among the very best of the year. The bedroom-pop approach is beautifully executed with Howerton’s light vocals fluttering through the dissonant guitar, the hum of an electric organ, and feathery rhythms. As the song builds, it enters a wistful, dream-like atmosphere. However for Howerton, this dream is not so grand. She recalls a time listening to the stereo with someone close, but those days are now gone. But instead of wallowing in despair, she opts to cherish the moments they had before they become just fleeting memories.
The EP comes to an end with “In Parking Lots”. The lo-fi approach beckons to Howerton’s solo days when she wrote, performed, and recorded everything in her bedroom. It’s a simple number, but beautifully realized, where the delicate instrumentation provides the canvas to the singer-songwriter’s alluring vocals. For fans of My Morning Jacket and Jim James, the song, including the story of friends moving on, is reminiscent of “Old Sept Blues”. The track and the entire record demonstrate this little band’s versatility. They can dazzle, leave one breathless, and create a dance-like atmosphere. With two great EPs under their belt, they are well on their way to becoming a part of Austin’s next wave of great artists. Well, they already are.
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