HALEY BONAR – ” Pleasureland “

Posted: October 30, 2018 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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“People are complicated, and I am no exception!” This was the crux of multi-instrumentalist Haley McCallum’s statement in regards to her latest album, Pleasureland an expectation-bucking, all-instrumental release she felt moved to do after the success of 2016’s Impossible Dream. A composer, producer, writer, guitarist, keyboard player, pianist, teacher, and mother, McCallum—formerly known to the music world as Haley Bonar—decided to shine a light on other aspects of her artistry, leaving the power-pop and barbed, lyrical observations she has become known for, behind. Stark, melodic, layered, and emotion-filled, Pleasureland feels like a step-out of time a meditation—a moment taken for oneself to reflect. As you listen to the inherent beauty of her piano-based compositions, your own thoughts and interior world feel reflected back at you as you drift from track to track. Even in Pleasureland’s most idyllic moments, a layer of subconscious unease remains the one exception being the drop-dead gorgeous “Next Time (For C)” which is beauty and romanticism and its finest. Trickling, agile piano reminiscent of the most poignant works of Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou—mixes with strings and air for the most romantic, lilting, and light moment of the album.

Pleasureland is an unexpected turn for McCallum, but an interesting exercise in autonomy and expectations. The result is a slight 27 minutes that manages to contain worlds—of emotion, texture, and feeling.

The concept of Pleasureland began while driving on I-94 east of Minneapolis, MN, passing an RV Sales park with the same namesake. Hundreds of giant RVs glistened on the hot pavement, awaiting a purchaser to indulge the dream of comfort and leisure. There was something hollow about the number of enormous vehicles built for the concept of adventure and pleasure, yet the lot was devoid of human life. I began writing songs that echoed my sentiments on capitalism, consumerism, racism, feminism, and violence- the true landscape of the so-called American Dream. All is not lost- but I was personally lost for words in dark times. I found it difficult to portray anything more than a feeling without a lyrical narrative. Behind all of these concepts is the pulse of the human heart- humanity prevails and goodness exists, despite relentless news that states otherwise. I wanted to convey simultaneously the power and violence that silence creates. The deconstruction of the American Dream as we know it creates room for new growth and definition. But the destructiveness in its path is real, revealing a war within the self- silence to others suffering is no longer under the surface. I created the videos in order to present a visual interpretation for the auditory concept. Happening upon footage of a pre-9/11 America while scrolling developed unmarked tapes from my dad’s basement, I found a version of our nation before everything changed- almost like a window back in time. The television selling the narrative of consumerism as success and poverty as failure is still eerily relevant. Personal family footage was used in order to echo the aforementioned sentiments of humanity which we are born to love and conditioned to forget. These videos are intentionally low budget and DIY, using gritty VHS, iphone, and manipulated found footage, almost antagonizing the purpose of visual commodity in music. This is not to say that I am necessarily against music videos- in fact, I love and respect many directors who make a living doing this. For me, creating something raw, unstable, and lacking self-seriousness more appropriately aligned with these compositions.

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