This week in new music: Haley Bonar is the princess of introspective indie pop on “Kismet Kill” (above), Shura channels Madonna, Janet Jackson, Kylie and John Hughes on Nothing’s Real, and Hot Hot Heat unfortunately splutter to an uninspired halt on their final album.
Haley Bonar – “Kismet Kill”
Haley Bonar (right) is a Canadian singer-songwriter currently based in the U.S. Quietly working away over seven albums and a number of EPs since 2003, Bonar is your ultimate fringe indie princess.
“Kismet Kill” is taken from forthcoming album Impossible Dream. The track is concerned with a prom queen who eventually entirely fails to realize her early potential. It’s all babies, crappy jobs and ill health from the prom high point. Happy thoughts.
While firmly indie, Bonar always retains a killer pop sensibility. I haven’t heard it yet but “Hometown” from Impossible Dream kinda sums it up:
“All grown up, saving up for my exit
Let it burn in the rearview mirror
The folks I know will all go on their
Way to staying the same
But the further that I get, the deeper
Hometown goes wherever you go.
Such a beautiful ring of black fire
I can see it for miles and miles
When I come back I’ll be
Something to somebody
Hometown goes wherever you go.”
It’s “Love Is A Battlefield” for disaffected indie kids and it’s quite brilliant.
Nothing of course is perfect and in the constant search for perfect pop the path is strewn with road kill. Everything is blogged as the next big thing nowadays and the recent(ish) downtempo pop/sad pop genre has had a huge number of casualties.
One of the bright lights was Shura – aka Aleksandra Denton – on her early tracks “Touch” and “2Shy.” By rights Shura should have disappeared along with most of her contemporaries but Denton has taken her own sweet time in producing Nothing’s Real, a record as close to perfect pop as you’re likely to find this year and easily up there with Christine and the Queens.
The atmospheric instrumental opener “(i)” is probably a touch misleading. The aforementioned “Touch” and “2Shy” are better intros to an album that absolutely revels in its 80s pop forebears. “What’s It Gonna Be” for example could come straight from any of your favorite 80s teen dramas.
Shura also touches on Kylie brilliance on title track “Nothing’s Real.” You can also hear the influence of 80s Madonna on tracks like “Indecision.” There’s an added depth though – the title track for example is all about panic attacks, hospitalization, that sort of thing.
Shura is also not just another wannabe – between them, “Touch” and “2Shy” have close to 10 million plays on Spotify. With YouTube you can add in another 25 million or so plays.
Hot Hot Heat – Hot Hot Heat
Canadian indie act Hot Hot Heat have over two decades failed to reach the heady heights of acts like Arcade Fire despite a similar pedigree.
Their fifth self-titled album is their last. They could have gone for a simple best of… but instead they’ve made a valiant attempt to recapture some of the urgency and vim of their earlier releases. It doesn’t entirely work unfortunately. Sometimes you think you’re listening to The Strokes or a North American take on Dogs Die In Hot Cars.
Nice comparisons there but it never quite takes off.