EP: Why Bonnie – ‘Voice Box’

Releasing music during a pandemic creates something of a paradox – sure, people are starved for entertainment, and perfectly primed to listen to music on a stream, but launch gigs are cancelled and record shops are closed. Sympathy has to go out to Get in Her Ears faves Why Bonnie then, who’ve just signed to Fat Possum and who have just released their new EP, with a now cancelled show in New York previously part of their plans. That being said, if you absolutely have to stay indoors – or, in a garden, at best – across a sunny Easter weekend, you could do worse than have Voice Box on repeat.

Opener ‘Bury Me’ leads with an acoustic strum into mid-tempo, ’90s tinged, dream pop that’s got a Mazzy Star vocal scattered over a Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain Pavement backing. That acoustic flavour is continued in later track ‘Jetplane’, but there it’s also drenched with synths. Closer ‘No Caves’, meanwhile, is four-to-the-floor indie-rock until its guitar spirals and noodles flare into garage.

Previous single, ‘Athlete’ is a standout here, not least as it sits right in the middle of the track listing and opens with a highly inappropriate cough, right in the listener’s direction. Suitably, it’s a lot gruffer than the rest of the EP, with its itchy violins, emerging into an alt-rock stomper.

But it’s the title track that shines most here. An epic five minutes, with a chorus that’s really a middle eight, acting like a breaking off from the early uncertainty of a synth-infused hazy landscape into something with more urgency, replete with a closing guitar outro shimmer. As an introduction to the band, the tune is perfect – and that’s without mentioning the perfume infomercial style video, which the band describe as a “Carpenters-inspired dream world”.  All in all, title-track ‘Voice Box’ is the closest the EP comes to the sound of dream-pop royalty, a la Cocteau Twins – and there’s no higher praise.

Of the EP, and its title, lead singer Blair explains: “It encapsulates a disconnect between my inner and outer world, and not being able to express myself authentically because of that. But, ultimately knowing I will crash and burn if I don’t.”

Given the recent days of self-isolation, and those still ahead of us, perhaps that gap between our inner and outer worlds has become more physical than psychic – but the frustration, the need for communication and contact, and the desire for expression are just the same.  With its waves of light mirroring those of the blossoming spring weather, perhaps Why Bonnie have inadvertently made the perfect music for spending time indoors.

Voice Box is out now via Fat Possum Records.

John McGovern