Published Feb 12, 2020In the hands of Micah Visser, Winnipeg is a grey hinterland no longer — it's a kaleidoscopic dream world, a teen romance made concrete, a sunset to be driven into endlessly. Their self-titled debut as Boniface plays like some lost Brat Pack coming-of-age soundtrack, where lovers meet in the middle of the night and cars are portals of escape, to new bodies and new cities.
Following the piano-led "Waking Up in Suburbia," the record is an explosion of maximalist neon pop-rock, a cascade of big drums, gossamer synths and driving guitar. Visser knows their way around a hook, and there's little fat to these air-tight arrangements, each note played for maximum impact. It would be inaccurate to describe Boniface as purely '80s pastiche — while obviously and ardently devoted to the synths and major chords of '80s pop, it's equally indebted to the shout-along choruses and openhearted, shoegazing lyricism of mid-2000s indie rock.
And like so many wide-eyed indie rockers of yore, Visser cannot claim a traditionally powerful, nor particularly versatile voice. But where its humble charms could seem out of place among all the expensive-sounding production, their voice feels strangely fitting for the stories being told — Visser is a passionate vocalist singing passionate songs, no histrionics or high notes necessary.
Boniface is youth music, both in its vibrant shimmer and its wide-eyed, confessional storytelling, verging on embarrassing but typically landing somewhere raw and urgent. "You're the shit nobody gives" is a goofy lyric, but it's sung with a smile and a genuine impulse, the drunkenly sincere assurances of a hopeless romantic. And though the lyrical motifs can verge on repetitive — small towns, summer nights, tiny apartments, confessionals and cars, cars, cars — they also feel honest. Visser is a devotee of that old adage, write what you know. And so, Boniface is a complex record about simple things, the same story told from a thousand different perspectives. Like an entire summer condensed into a diamond, each facet reveals some new detail.
The highlights are plentiful, from the fervent promise of "I Will Not Return as a Tourist" to the skyscraping hook of "Dear Megan," each a necessary piece of the gargantuan whole. That Visser can make something as rote as feeling trapped in your hometown feel crucial and new is a feat unto itself — that these deeply felt stories are packaged in such immense, life-affirming songs is nothing short of remarkable. (Royal Mountain Records)