The self-titled debut from Canadian solo artist Boniface is a catalogue of their most formative coming-of-age experiences, each moment captured in diary-like detail and set against a magnificently sprawling backdrop. Throughout the album, the musician/producer otherwise known as Micah Visser reflects on falling in love and facing heartbreak whilst struggling with identity, never failing to find an ineffable beauty within all the pain.
The result is a body of work both bracingly honest and powerfully exhilarating—an emotional journey that Visser encapsulates as “taking little detours and exploring the times when everything feels perfect.” Growing up in Winnipeg, Visser wrote the songs for the album at home throughout their late teens and early twenties, after shifts at the local coffee shop and lost nights in the city. This intimacy has been preserved on Boniface, with the songs largely recorded in the room they were written, and with Visser’s brother Joey and longtime collaborator Micheal Dunn also on hand. After the addition of bassist Carter Dawson, Visser eventually travelling travelled to London to finish up work on the LP with producer/engineer Neil Comber (Charli XCX, M.I.A., Glass Animals) who helped bring Boniface’s lavish arrangements to full and dazzling life. Delivering delicate piano ballads and breathless dance numbers with equal intensity, Boniface achieved the album’s shapeshifting tone by purposely twisting its emotional arc. “I try to be as open as possible when I’m writing, and a lot of the time that ends up being fairly dark,” says Visser. “It’s always a challenge to retain that feeling but also give people something fun they can dance to.” Revealing Boniface’s ingenuity as an artist, the moody and magnetic single “Keeping Up” contrasts its weary perseverance with so many idiosyncratic flourishes: spacey beats, fuzzed-out samples of dial-up static, a majestic trumpet solo.
One of the album’s more heavy-hearted moments, “Fumbling” unfolds in aching vocal work and jagged textures while boldly pushing toward the solace of self-preservation. And on “Oh My God,” Boniface presents a gloriously epic expression of affection, proving their profound gift for turning outpouring into poetry (sample lyric: “You’re the water in a swimming pool/Steal my breath in late October”). “With ‘Oh My God,’ I just wanted to write a really fun song about having genuine tenderness for somebody, and letting them know how you feel without any expectation at all,” Visser notes. Throughout the album, Boniface channels infatuation with such sincerity and nuance, it leaves the listener feeling lovestruck too. That ease in articulating complex emotion comes from years of refining their songcraft, an endeavor that began back in Visser’s early adolescence. Taking up violin as a little kid and soon moving on to guitar, they later learned the essentials of music production and started self-recording, but mostly kept that the output private. “I was very self-conscious about my music, and didn’t share it with anyone for a long time,” Visser points out. Visser began touring around Canada as a teenager, soon drawing the attention of Transgressive Records and signing to the London-based label home to Sophie, Neon Indian and Flume. Eventually adopting the moniker of Boniface—a nod to the neighborhood they grew up in they and quickly earned acclaim with singles like “I Will Not Return As A Tourist” and “Wake Me Back Up.” In addition to landing tracks on Spotify’s New Music Friday and Apple’s Best Of The Week, Boniface began taking the stage with the likes of Foals and Let’s Eat Grandma, instilling each performance with an untamed exuberance. “The shows I love most are the ones where the performers are clearly bringing joy to people, so we try to make our show as joyful as possible,” says Visser, who’s joined onstage by a full band. “What’s always drawn me to music is that it starts out as this very cathartic thing for me to do on my own, and then gradually becomes something for me to share and connect with people in a way that doesn’t really happen otherwise. I love how it can be both solitary and communal.” While the catharsis documented on Boniface is undeniably raw, Visser points to a certain touchstone behind the making of their full-length debut: a mission of gently encouraging others to embrace total vulnerability. “There’s so much negativity in the world, and it’s easy to get caught in that cycle of being closed off and negative too—then projecting that onto other people, and just continuing the cycle,” says Visser. “I’ve found that for me personally, pushing myself to be more open helps other people open up as well, and it becomes a cycle of positivity instead. And I know that it’s really scary to do that, but hopefully opening up in my music will help people to feel safe. I’d love for people to hear these songs and feel inspired, like they can do anything they want with their lives.”