Review: Haley Bonar Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

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by Susan Darlington

Haley Bonar would like to share with the audience the favourite interview question she’s been asked recently.

“Whose ice cream would you like to p**s on?” she muses, in response to a lyric in ‘Jealous Girls’. “Yours!”

The acerbic line, combined with the spiky country rock arrangements, immediately draw comparisons with Jenny Lewis. There is, however, much more to the Minnesota-based singer-songwriter than this.

Back on the road with a four-piece backing band to promote seventh album Impossible Dream, her career first received a boost when she heavily toured with Low in 2003. Initially producing slow-core folk tracks that had an emotional parallel to the band, it was only recently she became more musically abrasive.

These stages in compositional development are represented in this set, which can be broadly broken down into two sections. She opens with the country-garage, slide guitar likes of ‘Stupid Face’ and ‘Better Than Me’, which alternate between Ryan Adams and Stevie Nicks-style bright melodies.

She then moves onto more spirited new wave tracks such as ‘Called You Queen’, her intense delivery and squalling feedback adding a degree of volatility to the set (“It feels like a punk rock show I went to when I was sixteen,” she grins after one particularly excoriating guitar break).

The influence nonetheless can’t mask her love of satisfying pop hooks and retro vibes, the extent to which becomes clear when she encores with The Crystals’ ‘Then He Kissed Me’, reading the lyrics from a printed sheet at her feet.

It’s this broadened influence of country, new wave and Spector-ish reverb that suggests her impossible dreams may yet come true.