Review – “grizzly bear heart/coeur d’ours grizzli” – Amy Bronson

grizzly bear heartreviewed by Michael Thomas

What does it mean to have a grizzly bear heart? The image is open to interpretation, and given the context of this album, it’s certainly not to be taken literally. An educated guess might be a heart that’s taken a figurative beating but is tough enough to survive it.

Lethbridge’s Amy Bronson is an eminently quotable musician. In most cases, her folk-leaning tunes use simple instrumentation as a backdrop to her meaningful lyricism. Like Toronto’s Emilie Mover, Bronson draws on nature’s imagery as she tells tales of relationships gone sour or so far gone they’re like a buffalo’s bones beneath a cliff (image courtesy of the song “to-do”). Opener “mountains” does this very well, especially when the title makes its appearance in the song “You’re in the mountains and I can’t see them/for the first time in a long time.”

“where you were” opens with the image of a full moon, but the subject matter is anything but romantic—in fact it’s heartbreaking. “It was a full moon where I was, but not where you were,” Bronson sings to begin the song. She goes on to recount an expired relationship, and the lover is now in sub-Saharan Africa. Lines like “Can you believe that I never meant to leave?/it was a favour to you, nothing else I can do” only adds to the glittering sadness. “anatomy” references blood and faces, but the simple guitar backing and Bronson’s vocal delivery betray a deep wistfulness. It later adds a swampy backing track, at one point incorporating what sounds like a didgeridoo.

This isn’t to say that Bronson is all melodic, simple acoustic tracks, though. “manners” kicks things up a notch early on, touching on cheating as a main subject but with a fuzzy guitar backing that adds a little rock and roll. With the backing, the lyrics sound like righteous indignation and become a bit more humorous (case in point: “That could have been a date/but you were covered with hickeys when you showed up late”). “coeur d’ours grizzli” changes things up even more by adding in electronics and featuring lyrics en Francais.

Bronson is currently based in New York City, but she doesn’t forget her Canadian roots with album closer “Canada,” an upbeat, fast-talking track (best line: “But I can hold you because it’s Canada so I hold you like Canada). It goes on to talk about government and health care, two things Canada is all about.

grizzly bear heart/coeur d’ours grizzli succeeds because Bronson balances a sense of heartbreak with a sense of fun. Her lyrics pack a punch whether they’re meant to break your heart or make you laugh.

Top Tracks: “manners”; “coeur d’ours grizzli”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)

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