All music (and in fact all art of any kind) exists as an ongoing dynamic between existing form and free expression. The tighter a song adheres to a form, the more (in theory) a listener’s capacity to connect personally with it will depend upon the individual expressiveness of the performance. This is why (in theory, and honestly I’m just making this up as I go along) it’s so counterintuitively difficult to play the blues (or, at least, to play it effectively): the music is structurally rigid enough to require all sorts of expressiveness to have an impact, and yet adding expressiveness to something so inherently structured is a challenge indeed.
And here is “I Live My Broken Dreams”—a Daniel Johnston song that is not exactly blues (though not too far from it), but certainly a composition offering a lot of familiarity in terms of melody and chords; you’ve heard this basic form before. And here is Haley Bonar (rhymes with “honor”), the singer/songwriter (featured here back in 2008 and 2011 on her own) now fronting the peppy, intermittently frantic Minneapolis band Gramma’s Boyfriend. Not the same sound as when last we left her. But the character of voice required to command attention behind a mere guitar serves her well in this new, noisier context. More to the original point, Bonar’s expressive qualities (from tone to phrasing to just general cool-sounding-ness) shoot through the song’s somewhat homely form and help transmute it from a fractured, fragile oddity into a chewy but loose-limbed rave-up. Her four band mates deftly assist, laying down a groove at once dirty and bouncy, a semi-chaotic mix of synth squiggles and reverbed noise. With a very sudden ending.
“I Live My Broken a Dreams” is from the album PERM, released this week on Graveface Records. The band previously released an eight-song album called The Human Eye in 2013.
photo credit: Graham Tolbert Photography