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Bonny Doon - "Bonny Doon" | Album Review

by Connor Bush (@coldandscared)

As the last few remnants of winter hit North America, a palpable energy has begun to infiltrate the air. More heads up, growing crowds at bars, and the collective fervor of the warmth that’s to come necessitates some new tunes to match the environment. Luckily, Bonny Doon have us covered with their jangling guitars, astutely mundane observations, and bittersweet reflections. The Detroit four-piece released their self-titled debut March 10 via Salinas Records, ten days shy of the first day of spring. The album features the songwriting of Bill Lennox and Bobby Colombo, along with the production of Michigan veteran Fred Thomas. Often, the album plays like a sketchbook, exemplified most on the back-to-back songs “(You Can’t Hide)” and “You Can’t Hide”, the former presumably a demo of the latter. The sketchbook manner plays out quite intentionally and works perfectly with the relaxed and personal vocals provided by Lennox. It gives the whole album a cozy and inviting feel.
Duality stands as a strong theme throughout Bonny Doon, things are both known and unknown. “(You Can’t Hide)” and “You Can’t Hide” are the same song, but they aren’t. Portland and Detroit exist in the same world, but the clocks don’t match up. On “Never Been to California,” Lennox sings “I’ve never seen a ghost/But I’ve felt a chilly breeze”, playing with the possibilities of another dimension that both exists yet seemingly does not. It’s the same feeling that a full listen of the album conjures, the sneaky minute long track “Maine Vision” evolves out of quick recording bits only to be cut off completely at fifty nine seconds in favor of “Evening All Day Long.” It prompts a look at your listening device to check if the connection was lost, a jarring snap that toys with the album’s sound, which may be understood as moody background music for some.
It’s nearly impossible not to think of Bonny Doon in relation to early Wilco and Real Estate, which is a good thing. The raw vocal quality, ragtime rhythms and sounds, and seasonal associations put Bonny Doon in a similar universe as Summerteeth. The personal revelations, nostalgia soaked stylings, and twinkling guitars also align the album with Days. That being said, Bonny Doon have found a way to approach the genre with a fresh outlook, even it may simultaneously be a tired one, by fiddling just enough with album structure and sonic infiltration. As the weather continues to warm, it’s believable that the album will continue to gain impact, comforting weary listeners as they spend time with loved ones, make small talk at odd barbeques, and contemplate whether they are making any progress at all in this weird life. But after the party's over and the weather makes it’s inevitable turn back to cold, Lennox and Co will be there with a six pack and some loose tunes to make everything alright again.