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New-York-by-way-of-Texas transplants Why Bonnie announce their debut album, 90 in November, on their new label Keeled Scales. “90 in November” is a sunny guitar pop song about lead singer and songwriter Blair Howerton’s hometown of Houston, packed full of sparkling snapshots—”a technicolor sun” and “a cardboard cutout cowboy waving me goodbye.” “I wanted to capture the bittersweet feeling of saying goodbye to the landscape that shaped you while still dealing with the anxieties of what lies ahead,” says Howerton. “Nostalgia always hits with a flash of disjointed memories - like speeding down the highway or sweating in the Texas heat.”
Following their 2020 “Voice Box” EP, 90 in November crashes into existence with a squeal of feedback and a burst of distorted guitar. Inspired by fellow Texans Townes Van Zandt, Blaze Foley, alt-rock like the Lemonheads and the Replacements, the eccentric pop of Sparklehorse, and Sheryl Crow, the album is a dynamic introduction to an evolutionized Why Bonnie. 90 in November is a meditation on the pains and pleasures of nostalgia and a lesson in learning how to look back at the people, places, and experiences that have shaped us, with room for both unvarnished honesty and rose-tinted melancholy.
The songs for 90 in November were mostly written in Brooklyn, where Howerton moved from Austin in 2019. Already in the midst of a major life change, her feeling of being between worlds was compounded when quarantine hit and she found herself, like so many others, stuck in her apartment—about as far away from the wide-open spaces of Texas as one can possibly get. It was in this environment that she began to write songs parsing out the complicated, mixed emotions associated with building a new home while attempting to make sense of the one she had left behind.
There’s a deep sense of place across 90 in November. The band—Howerton, keyboardist Kendall Powell, guitarist Sam Houdek, bassist Chance Williams, and drummer Josh Malett—considered making the record in New York or California, but ultimately decided that it had to be done in Texas. In early 2020, Why Bonnie headed down to the town of Silsbee (population: 6,634) to spend two weeks recording with Tommy Read (Lomelda, alexalone) at Lazybones Audio. Howerton describes it as an idyllic period of time where days were spent walking around with cows and evenings drinking Lone Star beer and looking at the stars.
90 in November is a trip through Howerton’s inner world, but it’s also a road trip through Texas. Often it is both at once. The songs are full of poetic, cinematic lyrics that flash like colorful scenes glimpsed from the window of a car as it barrels along an interstate highway cutting through the Lone Star State, each one a road stop revealing a different facet of Howerton’s experience. The album is a dynamic introduction to a more raw-edged indie sound from a band who have matured from bedroom dream pop into a sophisticated rock act, their evolving sound a reflection of the journey undertaken by Howerton on this vividly rendered collection of songs.
1. Sailor Mouth
3. Nowhere LA
4. Hot Car
6. 90 In November
8. Sharp Turn
9. Lot’s Wife