By: Nick Manduley
Hartford, Connecticut alt-rockers Bonsai Trees independently released their latest record Learn to Grow on May 3rd, 2019. In a bit under 40 minutes, the 3-piece from New England takes the listener on an emotional, rock-and-roll, hook-fueled journey leaving them anticipating what they’re going to do next; and if you’re a new listener, chances are this record will make you want to go back and listen to their previous releases.
Filled with cheeky indie rock tendencies, biting riffage, and the occasional emotive ballad-esque tune, Learn to Grow has a dynamic that any alternative rock fiend will feel a sense of familiarity with. Vocalist and guitarist James MacPherson has a singing voice that at times evokes the same feeling in my gut that I felt when I first heard The Killers’ Hot Fuss or Taking Back Sunday’s 2011 self-titled record. His performance on the opening track “Don’t” left me without a doubt in my mind that this was going to be an album I needed to review. The hook-filled, harmony-heavy song starts off with an infectious beat from drummer Nick Sokol and is guaranteed to get people dancing.
As the song ends with the chorus still reverberating in the listener’s head, the album pushes into the vicious tune “Vice Grips.” The track explodes with a mean riff, showing off some of the superb guitar work featured on this record, not to mention that wailing solo. “Shotgun” is similar in the sense that it’s also riff-centric; these songs are rather reminiscent of the Arctic Monkeys’ work on their earlier releases Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not and Favourite Worst Nightmare. But these tracks do not speak for the whole record; songs like “I Love an Artist,” “Dark Parking Lot,” and “We Talked” showcase a more pop-influenced side of the band’s flavor of indie rock. They add to the dynamic of the record; it’s a sign of quality songwriting when an album has songs with a diverse range of style and sound, but still sounds like the same band playing throughout.
The album offers a darker, more somber tone with the track “Away From Me.” The pain conveyed on the track can be sensed by the listener as lyrics about gasping for air and one’s skull hitting the bathroom sink give way to an explosive full band chorus ladened with the lyrical hook, “would you get away from me?”
As the album draws to a close with the mid-tempo banger “Rose,” the listener is left with a sense of satisfaction, as if they’ve just closed the back cover on a really good book. Learn to Grow is currently available on all major streaming platforms as well as Bandcamp. The band will be embarking on a 12-day tour on November 12th, kicking off in New Haven, Connecticut at Cafe 9, and concluding on the 24th at Muchmore’s in Brooklyn, New York. The tour will make stops as far north as Toronto and as far south as Birmingham. Tickets can be purchased via the band’s website.
Bonsai Trees November Tour Dates
11/13 Malta, NY @ Wired Coffee
11/14 Buffalo, NY @ Sugar City
11/15 Toronto, Ont CN @ Indie Week: Cherry Cola
11/16 Muncie, IN @ Be Here Now
11/19 Birmingham, AL @ The Nick Rocks
11/21 Chapel Hill, NC @ The Cave
11/22 Richmond, VA @ Garden Grove Brewing
11/23 Washington, DC @ Velvet Lounge
11/24 Brooklyn, NY @ Muchmore’s