Evening Hymns | Heavy Nights | (Shuffling Feet)
3 1/2 Stars out of Five
Lazy, languid, but etched with emotion, Heavy Nights, the latest release from Evening Hymns, the nom de plume of Canadian singer/songwriter Jonas Bonnetta, marks a return to form following a diverse assortment of projects that diverted from away his typically solitary style. Despite the expansive guest roster that accompanies him throughout, it’s a decidedly introspective effort, one dealing with the consequences of confusing desire with desperation. Most of the songs suggest a kind of catharsis, feelings shed in the aftermath of failed romance and disappointment. From the captivating opener “I Can Only Be Good” and through to the emphatic pitch of “Pyrenees,” Bonnetta seems to reaching out to obtain a salvation that lies just beyond his grasp while also finding himself feeling thwarted all at the same time.
As a result, Heavy Nights is, as its title implies, an album flush with nocturnal concerns. It’s little wonder that three of the eight tracks feature the word “dreams” in their titles, given that the album carries a hazy, dream-like ambiance that allows for little light overall. Even so, the lush arrangements and delicate combination of tone and texture moots much of the ambiguity while allowing Bonnetta’s emotions to come to full bloom. For all the complexity and contemplation these melodies convey, there’s a melodic connection that still remains intact. Joseph Shabason’s gorgeous sax solo on the descriptively titled “The Days Disintegrating,” the drift and desire of “You In Dreams” and the celestial setting of the beautiful “Kiss My Dreams” all share a certain ethereal intent, dark and yet desirable all at the same time.
Granted, Bonnetta often instills his alter-ego with a sense of misplaced melancholy and unresolved anticipation. Yet that makes the music all the more compelling and adds to the allure. “My Drugs, My Dreams” is an ideal example. A stark confession and passionate plea, it’s effectively underscored by a pronounced beat and a bold bass line that add extra emphasis to its plaintive posture. Ultimately, Heavy Nights isn’t the sort of album designed to create an immediate impression. It demands repeated listens and an opportunity to dig deep well below the surface. Yet, it’s a markedly memorable effort as well, one well worth any prolonged encounter. In the end, Heavy Nights provides its own restful respite.