15 Great Albums You Didn't Hear in 2016

Rolling Stone critics choose LPs that flew under the radar

Haley Bonar, 'Impossible Dream'
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Haley Bonar, 'Impossible Dream'

Don't let the title of Haley Bonar's seventh album fool you into mistaking this St. Paul singer-songwriter for some quixotic optimist. From the regretfully resigned "hometown goes wherever you go" to the wistfully self-deprecating "I was impossible when I was beautiful," the past clings heavily to her lyrics, an unwelcome anchor that her band's warmly churning guitars, subtle keyboard ripples and forthright beat battle to dislodge. The characters who populate these songs have varying degrees of success in leaving yesterday behind – Bonar repeats the title of "I Can Change" in a futile attempt to convince herself, but ends the album with a full-throated, and at least momentarily credible, chant of "You can be whatever you like." Reverbed into soft-focus, Bonar's voice radiates out from the mix in a manner that suits lines open-ended and allusive enough to read your own history into or as cryptic as an overheard conversation between strangers. Keith Harris