In my mind all the great American records are recorded in the sweltering heat of a semi-mythical “upstate” as a sort of self-imposed productive purgatory. On Longwave, Bonny Doon take this romantic aesthetic one step further by actively and regularly seeking the solitude of a Michigan log cabin as much for their own sanity as the peak creativity it yields. Laid back countrified indie in the vein of Whitney or Pinegrove may be the modum of the US indie scene just now but far from riding bumper to bumper on that increasingly mainstream highway Bonny Doon live down a delightful side-street harbouring the best alt-cover version since Red House Painters’ Silly Love Songs. But more of that later.
Musically and creatively not afraid to wear their heart on their (album) sleeve, the arid split-image on the cover of Longwave evokes the memory of Gram Parsons; so, upbeat in sound if not always in lyrical content and for its wilfully downtempo manner the slacker-folk sticker will refuse to be peeled. The “where do you go at night when you’re dreaming” sentiment on ‘Where Do You Go’ and the layered vocals on ‘Take Me Away’ sum Longwave up in a short mid-album interlude and paradoxically it’s when they indulge in a little brevity that they could perhaps go a long way.
The drums on lead track ‘I Am Here (I Am Alive)’ may be lifted straight from Rumours while the nigglingly knowing chord changes on ‘A Lotta Things’ (from GNR’s ‘Patience’ fyi) are supplemented by a lo-fi delivery (think Pavement’s ‘Dressed For Success’) and rustic simplicity that ensures Longwave retains a legit country edge. Non-more so than on ‘Saved’ who’s off-kilter dual guitars keep things contemporary before a false ending and the most lilting, gently addictive three chord outro.
On ‘Saw A Light’ the sunset love song and familiar strumming (“I had no song so I borrowed an old one”) evolves into an intricately clever word and melody play as the band manipulate and contort the Rolling Stones’ ‘Wild Horses’ into something new and unique while staying true to the bucolic beauty of the original. It’s as good as it is impressive; lazy but brazen and slightly sleazy like magpies adorning their nest with the best of the pickings.
Longwave may lack a big breakthrough tune like Whitney’s ‘No Woman’ and some of the songs are overlong, but right from the gentle title track and opener to the sleepy blues of instrumental and closer ‘Walkdown’ it’s a record I will no doubt go back to again and again this year for that loose Americana fix.
Longwave is released on 23rd March through Woodsist.