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Priest New Music Pick #27: Clothbound by The Sonder Bombs

After our regularly scheduled January/February break from writing about new music, we're back today with the first of ten straight shotgun posts about new albums and/or songs we've been spinning lately. It's been proven that streaming gives you cancer, so I encourage you to buy a physical copy of the record if you like it.



sonder (n): the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.

I'm struggling a bit with that definition to be honest with you. Is this really the case? Even the guy I passed this morning with the Bon Jovi hoodie? God, that's profoundly depressing. I don't mean to imply I have achieved a higher level of vividity and complexity than others I pass on street (or as the pandemic dictates, across the street); I suppose the reverse has an equal chance of being true. Maybe I'm not living up to my end of the bargain. It makes me sad to consider the possibility. Perhaps we should revise the definition to state that all random passers-by average out to a life as vivid and complex as your own. I mean, I've met some pretty empty vessels in my days and I'm pretty sure I've got at least some of them beat. Maybe this is where the bombs come in?

Not all band mates are created equal, either, of course. With no insult intended to the talented guys in this band who make some thrilling things happen along the way, singer Willow Hawks and her ukulele figure most prominently in the success of Clothbound, the excellent second record from Cleveland favorites the Sonder Bombs. Her standout voice and instrument of choice grab hold of you from the first moments of this all-too-brief 31-minute record and hold tight right until the last note. It appears like everybody in the band's solar system knew she was special from day one, a theory supported by the fact the band's debut was titled MODERN FEMALE ROCKSTAR. Caps intentional and merited, I may add. Hawks is that and more. The voice is a no-brainer. She's a star, or should be soon, plain and simple. The ukulele is even having a bit of a comeback these days, too (Ukulele magazine is now on its 32nd issue!). It adds just the right amount of head-tilting curiosity to the band's sound, whether they're outright rocking or downshifting into a more contemplative headspace. All the proof you need of both can be found in the one-two punch of slow-to-boil album opener, "Papillon," and the girl-group harmonies that usher in the alternative doo-wop of "Crying is Cool" ("Ooh shala la la, ooh shala la la la"). And from there, the only thing that's predictable is that the next song is going be well-written enough to stick in your head after the album ends. If you choose to let it end, that is. I found myself going "around the horn" more than once in past weeks, partly because the record is short enough to allow it, but mostly because I wasn't quite ready to leave their world just yet. What is it that causes such a sensation? This intangible quality is what separates the good bands from the great ones.

One thing that's for sure is they're a great pandemic companion. With so much time to ourselves these days, a forensic examination of our emotional well-being is pretty much unavoidable. "Crying is Cool" might just be the anthem for those of you yearning for some mental support or at least some empathetic companionship, "No one ever tells us it's okay / But it's okay / Yeah, you are safe." Later, "We could hit Netflix and a bottle of wine." (They even sell "Crying is Cool" wine glasses on their Bandcamp page, which is admittedly a little precious, but also undeniably in touch with the times as well.) If this is trending a little too quirky and borderline pretentious for your tastes, I assure you it's absolutely not that at all. The band is dead serious yet playful and thankfully free of that "sad girl" aesthetic so in vogue these days. This is the release record you didn't know you needed. It feels good to let go and allow these songs to surround you. With the help of Hawks' naturally expressive voice even the simplest lyrics sound cathartic, much as Rainer Maria's Caithlin DeMarrais did back in the day or as Frances Quinlan is doing now with her band, Hop Along (whose own Joe Reinhart produces this record). If you're currently spending time in lockdown rehashing old relationships, Willow has you covered as well. "Swing on Sight" shows why the recovery from a breakup can take so long, "I know things about you that I can't unlearn now." Granted, brooding love songs are a dime a dozen, but with the right singer to tell you the story and a capable band to support the cause, the everyday can turn into something compelling, downright important, in translation. Clothbound is a record by a young band with a ton of potential, but even as is they're pretty fucking amazing.

PRIEST SONG PICKS: "What Are Friends For?" | "Crying is Cool" | "The Brink" | "Play It By Fear"

Back with another record in a couple days.

The Priest


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