Misha Bower’s first solo album reads like a dark, moody novella.
Musicians are like interpreters. The most adept artists know how to unlock the language of feeling, translating emotion through melody and lyrics to make a lived experience universal. It’s not a literal, word-for-word transposition. It needs finesse. Nuance. You need to be able to read the topographical landscape of life. Know when a guitar solo is appropriate, or when a pause is needed to punctuate a single thought or word.
Misha Bower is fluent in many languages: love, longing, joy; tempo, tone, form. As a founding member of Bruce Peninsula, Bower has much experience in the art of musical storytelling. While Trying to Have it All is her first solo album, it’s unfair to consider it a debut; that honour goes to Music for Uninvited Guests, a 2012 collection of short stories that play out across the imagination like songs. Trying to Have it All reads like a dark, moody novella. “Starless Night” glimmers thanks to an angelic chorus (abetted by L CON’s Lisa Conway) and an intense solo courtesy of guitarist Will Kidman.
Bower’s brand of folk is smoky, her lyrics of hard-won love sharp observations: “You think I’m cruel for loving hand to mouth / Before I’m in it, I know my way out,” (“Hostage Taker”); “I’m coming in last, but I’m heading to first / One of the meek who’ll inherit the Earth,” (“Coming in Last”). There are moments pregnant with hesitation throughout Trying to Have it All , hinting at vulnerability and intimacy that Bower isn’t quite ready to make bare yet. It’s those moments, like the haunting piano and stabbing strings of the title track, that rely on music rather than lyrics to get Bower’s emotional truth across.
Like the “wiggling tooth that has no intention of falling out” she sings of on “Love That’s Loose”, Bower allows room on Trying to Have it All for interpretation and conjecture. Still, there’s a sense that as much as she’s willing to share with her audience, there’s something Misha Bower is keeping back for herself, for now.