Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.
The term "coming of age" typically applies to a teenager's passage into adulthood; to the heady stretch of months and years when a child becomes something resembling a fully formed person, with all the growth and responsibility that entails. But there are inherent faults to the premise, starting with the fact that we never really stop coming of age, at least as long as we remain notionally open to our own evolution. We learn from our mistakes, or at least we hope to, and sometimes we backslide as our priorities, dreams and desires shift and settle. We're always becoming new versions of ourselves.
Haley Bonar was only 18 when she released her first album back in 2001 — and 15 years later, her sharp and reflective songwriting dwells (appropriately enough) on her current place in that ceaseless coming-of-age process. The songs on Impossible Dream revolve around the ways we age into our identity, learn to live within our own skin, and try to look back only fleetingly, with as little regret as possible. "I was impossible when I was beautiful," she sings in "Kismet Kill," packing all the ambivalence she can into just seven words.
Though Impossible Dream is subdued in stretches, its peaks are as spiky as anything Bonar has recorded — try the gritty and galloping "Called You Queen" for an example — as the Minnesotan works through a young lifetime of confusion and doubt. ("I could be so happy if I let myself be happy," she sings in "I Can Change.") But, for an album so focused on the roadblocks we face en route to self-actualization, Impossible Dream's final words reflect the most important sentiment Bonar has learned along the way: "You can be whatever you like."