haley bonar has spent a lot of the past few years poring over her past. that has something to do with the sound of her recent recordings, whether it be her recent solo efforts or the throwback funky punky grooves of her side project gramma’s boyfriend.
but on her latest album impossible dream, this glance in the rearview has also inspired some of the most poignant and pointed work of her long career as songwriter even if you have to dig a little to find bonar within the tunes.
“i was writing short stories for a while, mostly for myself,” she says. “but in some ways you can afford a lot more when you’re writing something that’s three minutes long versus something that’s detailed and is obvious that it’s you. this is me looking back on memory lane and just using little fragments that are relevant to the song so it feels a little less naked.”
impossible dream then, like all of bonar’s work, gains its power from a combination of the personal and universal. even when she sings about her days hitting up basement punk shows on “better than me” or kicks off this album with an ode to her formative years in the gently chiming “hometown,” it will surely stir up memories from your own younger days.
and as with her prior albums, bonar reveals a widescreen look at the world, touching on issues of sexuality, jealousy, and the fragile ties that bind relationships together. if they connect with your circumstance and the cultural conversation at large, that’s just a welcome coincidence.
“those things have always been relevant to me,” bonar says. “those conversations have been happening my entire life.”
what is clear right now is the impact this album is looking to have on the world at large. bonar has already received some excited press notices about the two singles from impossible dream that have already been released: “i can change” (“a resolute pillar of bold, classic songwriter,” according to the line of best fit) and “kismet kill,” which stereogum called “a penetrating rumination on just how transitory love and beauty can be.“). the biggest stamp of approval, though, has come from elton john. the venerated singer/songwriter chose to play “i can change” on his beats 1 show rocket man radio.
“hearing elton john say my song is beautiful is pretty awesome,” bonar admits.
to say that bonar’s career has been building towards that nod from a rock god, though, is to dismiss all the hard work she has done since she started releasing music in 2001. the 33-year-old singer/songwriter has been building a fanbase slowly and steadily, while remaining in complete control of her art. as with all of her prior albums, bonar wrote and arranged all the songs on impossible dream. she also co-produced the record with minneapolis mainstay jacob hanson. chances are she’d be making this music even without the support of a label or her many fans around the world. but, just as the title of this new album suggests, she’s living out her wildest and most impossible dream right now.
“if somebody came to me as a teenager and said, ‘in 15 years, you’ll have made nine records and be touring the world,’ i would have been, like, ‘no way,’” she says, laughing. “it’s true that it might not look like a lot to some people, but it’s very special to me.”