Love can be a funny thing sometimes. A relationship that seems predictable can end up unveiling one surprise after another. Other times, just when the mystery of a romance leaves us ready to walk, the clearest of emotions can shine through to show why it’s worthwhile to stay. One could say that the newest single from Evening Hymns – also known as Jonas Bonnetta – channels this sentiment of unexpected contrast quite well.
“I Can Only Be Good” is the title of the first fresh piece of music from the Canadian composer and producer under his Evening Hymns name since 2015. The track precedes a bigger collection of songs from Evening Hymns that is slated for arrival in summer 2020 via Bonnetta’s own label, Shuffling Feet.
At first glance, the title implies a song meant to deliver positivity, joy, and the feeling of confidence that comes with the good times in a relationship. Yet, just as it’s worthwhile to heed the wisdom of not judging a book by its cover, “I Can Only Be Good’s” title doesn’t translate to the exhilarating affair it teases. In fact, the music and lyrics both are tilted in the opposite direction: the downward fadeout of love between two people.
“It was difficult to write this while in a relationship,” says Bonnetta. “I was writing from the perspective of someone falling out of love and with the end in sight. Knowing that was going to come and that I’d have to deal with this intense destruction of all of these comforts and shared dreams that I’d known for years. Looking around and something just not feeling right even though it should have. A long list of all the reasons one should [or] shouldn’t fall in love.”
It almost seems ironic that Evening Hymns worked on this piece not while single but while in a relationship. Though one might believe such cognitive dissonance could stunt the song’s core concept and accompanying mood, the emotional weight of “I Can Only Be Good” couldn’t feel any more genuine. The song’s nearly four and a half minute run time unfolds feeling just as long as it looks but nothing about the song feels unnecessary.
I don’t want to fall in love again
Wandering around in a dream with you
Making up lists of things to do
All in all those nights were sweet but few
Reality comes beaming through
The downtrodden demeanor in Evening Hymns’ vocals, the plodding snare beats that dictate the song’s hesitant tempo, the sporadic bursts of saxophone notes that breakup the overall somber tension from moment to moment, working all together, these attributes set a very distinctive scene. Picture a city bar in the earliest hours of the morning, and a post-midnight solo jazz set as the only source of energy in the room that manages to cut through the haze of a person sitting alone with their lonely but hesitant thoughts in a crowded room. The song really makes a strong and clear statement without overcomplicating the music or the arrangement. Whatever follows this, whether more somber or signaling better times ahead, “I Can Be Good” has definitely done more than just a good job of setting up Evening Hymns to draw people into the long term journey.
“It was one of the first songs we tracked and it kind of set the tone for how I wanted the album to sound/feel,” says Bonnetta.
“Late night, smokey, woozy. Recorded live off the floor with Rhodes piano and drums. Joseph Shabason play[ing] the sax. Low red lights in the studio. The conflict of risking it all for love.”