For all the stuff Micah Visser sings about on their self-titled debut as Boniface, Visser is really focused on just one thing: the amplified emotions of early adulthood. It’s that time of life when every stolen kiss, intimate connection, earnest confession, late-night conversation, missed phone call or unrequited crush comes freighted with extra meaning, as if nothing could be so vital or consequential ever again. That’s exactly right, in a way, and Boniface captures the essence of that feeling on a dozen songs that practically tremble with fervor.
Like the best of early 2000s emo or, hell, Taylor Swift’s 1989, Boniface is fully immersed, imparting a present-tense urgency on songs about learning how all those super-charged emotions fit together with the (melo)drama of self-discovery. Accordingly, it’s a big-sounding album, with indie-pop songs laced with hooks and full of clamorous synthesizers, bold guitars and surging rhythms. Even the more restrained moments exert a strong pull, thanks in large part to Visser’s distinctive vocals. They can sound conversational and meditative at times, summon a quiet, startling anguish in falsetto or let loose with dizzying bombast that sends a song soaring.
That’s what happens on “Dear Megan.” A big, clattering beat propels layers of blaring synthesizers and a springy guitar part, and Visser builds their voice in intensity to a cathartic shout-along refrain. The song is part apology and part enticement as Visser parses competing impulses to stay for someone else’s sake or leave for their own. Elsewhere, the depth of feeling is palpable on “Fumbling,” but so is an unspoken pressure that accompanies the soul baring that washes through the song like a rogue wave. “I was raised to only focus on the ones I love / And it’s you now, you know,” Visser sings softly over gurgling synths, and that’s a pretty big chunk of your still-beating heart to just hand someone who, based on the other lyrics, probably isn’t expecting it.
There are no half-measures here, though, and if the ardency of these songs sometimes tips into the red, it’s worth questioning why such a frank display of earnestness and vulnerability can feel unsettling. Part of it is surely Visser’s willingness to present themself without irony or, really, any defense mechanism at all, which is unusual enough. Also, feeling such big feels tends to come with a certain level of solipsism—see also, early-2000s emo and, um, Taylor Swift’s 1989—but Visser displays a rare measure of wry self-awareness that proves disarming. “Ain’t it kind of funny how we still don’t like the bed we’re sleeping in / Or the town where we reside?” he sings on “Ghosts,” where muted piano on the verses gives way to pulsing crying-on-the-dancefloor musical breaks. “We’re 21, you know / If we wanted it, we would have control.”
Disarming, and maybe slightly disingenuous, Boniface shows very clearly that Visser has full control, along with a wide-open heart and a keen ear. They make the most of those attributes, which coalesce into a first-rate debut LP.