90 In November
Album review by Captain Stavros
I once had a friend whose father said to me, ‘I want to live in a place where I can fire a shotgun in any direction at all without worrying about hitting anything’. When I think about Texas, that’s what I think of. Fortunately, 90 In November doesn’t have to worry about which direction it’s fired off in, it’ll hit the mark regardless of distance. Texas natives Why Bonnie load up and fire off a formidable first LP freshly pressed on the brand spanking new Keeled Scales Records. Recorded in Silsbee, a blip on the map, you might think “probably why I haven’t heard of these rascals before” but there’s no shortage of tunes you can enjoy, circa 2018 when the In Water EP made its debut.
Bleary eyed, I put on ‘Sailor Mouth’ feeling tired. “Am I getting any sleep?” floats over my noise cancelling headphones as a neighbour revs their car until the limiter forces the struggling engine, and the inside of my skull, to make popping noises. The tune talks about waiting up for the sun, something my neighbour and I accidentally accomplished the night before. Staying up far too long on a far too hot night, we listened to 90 In November on our balconies looking down and out through the glass bottoms of our drained glasses that once held a single malt scotch. Feelings of lethargy spiderweb out over me now and tug throughout the day but the nostalgic thoughts of last night, and equally nostalgic melodies from the album, pull me further into Why Bonnie’s latest release. Blair Howerton’s thoughts on nostalgia?, “Nostalgia always hits with a flash of disjointed memories”. The album, unlike my mind at the moment, artfully organises and dispenses 10 tracks with near-even continuity.
After a particularly shit day at work, I arrive home during a thunderstorm listening to ‘Galveston’. Walking into my flat I realize, far too late, I’ve left the balcony sliding glass door wide-open and my flat is now a swimming pool. As ‘Galveston’ continues piping out while I’m on my hands and knees a-la-Cinderell-he, even the dreary moperation of soaking up the acid rains seems less bleak. Expertly played organs, swift finger worked, hammer-on scales, and Blair’s vocals singing about howling at the “moo-OO-ooo-OO-oon" in lupine fashion, don’t only distract, they distance me from my chore. Comfort is certainly a pillar on this day.
‘Nowhere LA’, track three, signals to me that there is no clear manifesto of what this album is, or isn’t supposed to be. From inside the music, you can imagine its pace as feeling consistent but like a car barrelling down a straight and narrow Texas interstate highway, you watch it come at you. Its form far, and seemingly forever, away but, before you know it, barrels past you in an instant, making a slow getaway at speed. The A-side of the LP kept coming at me in its thoughtful and rather masterful nuance. I’m not sure of how intentional the song writing is but it’s certainly not got a forced feeling.
The album donuts around ‘Healthy’ and ‘Sharp Turn’ on the B-side, where they’re all too at home as flagging forgettable tunes; although the latter does have a great indulgent solo finishing it off. You’ve had to really hold my feet to the fire for that criticism. They feel a little hollow without the guts of their forerunners but they aren’t exactly unlistenable. It’s not until the penultimate song ‘Lot’s Wife’ and finale ‘Superhero’ which winds down the LP with the heft of a weighted blanked, leading to an almost too abrupt finish.
90 in November not only dares to dream but it also gives us the option of doing so, as well with dreamy sounds that filter like sunbeams through hanging laundry. Blair’s warm vocals are truly the star of the show here. Her command of her finely tuned instrument is as delicate as it is refined, and lifts the rest of the accompanying sounds. The album shoots from the hip, unveiling in its honesty it isn’t trying to be anything but its purest form. Blair leans on her strengths, a lone fire on the dusty Texas plain in the distance might seem melancholy to some, but to others it’s a signal that spells warmth, security and invitation which’ll draw you in time and again throughout.