Music Reviews
90 in November

Why Bonnie 90 in November

(Keeled Scales) Rating - 8/10

The gradual creative ascent of Why Bonnie feels diametrically opposed to their warm, leaning-into-the-afternoon songs, especially since they've been at it since they formed in 2018. The Brooklyn-via-Texas quintet has paid their dues with a pair of introductory EPs that showed their tendency to blend rustic Americana with faint distortion. The band lives up to that promise on their debut full-length 90 in November, which pleasantly drifts from one track to the next while retaining a robust musical backbone.

Led by singer/guitarist Blair Howerton's velvety croon, whose inward-looking narratives mix confessional and storytelling song styles, Why Bonnie taps into a deceptively simple sonic tapestry. While the atmospheric guitars Nowhere, LA brim with a dusty hue, the cherubic fuzz of Silsbee feels inviting yet ominous. Howerton's delicate use of space feels very engrossing on the latter, on which she recalls someone who seems like a distant memory. The bright-eyed, slightly intricate guitar passages of Sharp Turn bring to mind early Big Thief, which rushes in with a muscular riff that perfectly responds to her anguish: "Thought I needed someone else/Guess I was wrong when I thought I knew myself." While they now call New York their home, the imagery of their hometown of southeast Texas is present throughout. The lazy shimmer of Hot Car and its vague poetic language, encased with a hint of shoegaze, follows Austin noise pop band Pure X's underrated run in the 2010s.

One notable strength of 90 in November is how it incorporates the right amount of variety without breaking its glowing trance. Even coming down to its final stretch, the band keeps the intensity to a high degree rather than winding down; even though it ends with the acoustic-led Superhero, Lot's Wife stands as one of the most vigorous performances on the album. Why Bonnie doesn't break its established mold, but it does sustain an element of surprise throughout that bodes well for whatever comes next.