words by mitchell goudie
Grief is a peculiar emotion. It silently lurks behind us for most of our lives, hiding in the shadows of uncertain decisions and the tender frailty of mortality. It seems so innocuous, from the outside looking in at least. It masks itself as a tint of sadness, a wave of blue, but beneath it all lies something much more contorted. It only takes a quick search to find the many stages of grief, and it’s within these that the entanglement often occurs. Habits form, indulgences become dependencies, and progress is almost impossible to map.
It’s difficult to truly empathize with someone currently being reacquainted with grief due to the complexity of the emotion as well as the inherent detachment that we all suffer from. Regardless of our best efforts to understand how someone feels, there are just some things which desire to be felt, and grief is one of them.
In Water sees Why Bonnie explore some of these stages. Dedicated to lead vocalist Blair Howerton’s brother, Bristol, the tracks bleed authenticity and convey a genuine knowledge of the nuanced effects that can take hold of us. Lead single “Made of Paper” throws is into a guitar driven groove that teeters on the edge of optimism, but reverts to a tender melancholy during the chorus that induces a rather fleeting sense of comfort.
This is indicative of the defence mechanism that we so often use when confronted with tragedy. Shortly after grief sets in, we try to rid ourselves of it. We don’t allow it to settle for fear of it taking up a permanent residence within us, and yet with our rebellion the recognisable sadness morphs into an almost pleasant nostalgic tide that is much more difficult to shake. “Made of Paper” recognises this, alluding to deliberate ignoring of the future; “Reading my fortune/In the mess I’ve made in the kitchen” and captures the quintessential melancholy of this nostalgia by using alternating keys and layered instrumentation.
Of course, no matter how knowledgeable we are about our emotions and how to deal with them, nothing can really prepare us for the moments in life that stick with us long after they’re gone. “Practice” is a sombre meditation on this idea. Steady drums back wistful vocals to help illustrate the mundanity of everyday life, which serves as a means of practice to deal with and overcome the inevitable overwhelming times of sadness and distress that lay ahead of us.
The eventuality of despair that this track portrays is certainly bleak, but this shouldn’t prevent us from taking emotional risks for fear of getting hurt. After a breakup, it’s easy to get caught up in the fear of being rejected again, and that fear can be paralysing. “Practice” takes this hesitance and forces it into action, so much so that the pain becomes commonplace, and with time, unnoticeable. Practice makes perfect as they say, and it seems that with suffering this rule still applies.
With the death of someone near, there comes a stage of grief wherein we become fixated on the future that we will no longer have with them. All of our ‘what if’s’ amalgamate with future ideas and plans to form a shattered crystal ball that cuts us every time we try to peer into it. “Bury my broken heart“, the resonating lyric from “Bright Boy”, lays the foundation of this concept.
It’s strange to lose someone close, and Why Bonnie acknowledge this. They recognise that what we’re most distraught about is the fact we’ll never get to go on that vacation to the states we wanted to, or that we’ll never get to see them nervously yet excitedly teeter their way out onto a hard wooden floor encircled by friends and family for their first dance. Rather than reminiscing of times gone by, the non existent future is now being purged and wiped from existence with bursting guitars, buried alongside what attachments we had.
Acceptance is a gradual process that we often miss. We sit and wonder when we’re going to feel better, “counting birds in the sky” like seconds on the clock. “Walking Like This” is a gorgeously melancholic track, and while the tone bears some resemblance to that of the one found in the first track, it differentiates itself in a critical way. The guitar strings have aged, the drums have calmed, and the vocals are accepting of this beautifully tragic world we live in. This track solidifies the entire EP as an accurate representation of grief, rounding it out with a bittersweet acceptance of what has happened, and with strength and willingness to move forward. The thought of future despair is no longer palpable, but as we already know, it’s never too far away.
In Water is out today, via Sports Day Records
Order it here