I was delighted to hear that Tracy Bonham was reimagining her first album The Burdens of Being Upright for its 20 year anniversary. I’m still not sure the math is right…or maybe I’m just in denial that I’m getting way old. The new album is titled Modern Burdens and the album is a slower, more somber, and more mature effort than its twenty year old counterpart.

I really loved Bonham’s first two albums Burdens and her kickass follow-up Down Here. It was 2005 when Blink the Brightest was released which is my favorite of the trio. Blink saw Tracy moving past some of the heavier moments of her first albums.  The shift created an album that I almost cannot find the words to express how brilliant it is. Tracy was growing up and her sound was changing. Developing. It developed into something beautiful and the album was just so solid from beginning to end.

When Tracy released her next album Masts of Manhatta in 2010 that maturation was really evident. Where Blink saw a much softer side with some of the edge of the previous albums, Masts was much softer. I thought the album was okay. I was a bit disappointed but only in that I was disappointed. I can’t blame Tracy for changing from a young woman screaming, “EVERYTHING’S FINE!” to being a bit more serene. I honestly didn’t know she had a new album in 2015 and only found out really around the time I found out she was prepping Modern Burdens. The album is another derivative of her new sound. I thought the album was okay when I listened on Spotify but after one listen I just went on to Burden and Down Here. The only album missing was Blink and after that was added to Spotify I’ve probably listened to the album forty times through.

This leads back to the reimagining of The Burdens of Being Upright. The original album really thrashes. Tracy can really wail. Even the slower songs could really rock with some kickass guitar rifts – Sharks Don’t Sleep is a great example of being much slower, having Tracy voice BOOM, while some amazing guitars shred. After hearing some early songs from this new album I knew not to expect the same thing with Modern Burdens. I’m happy to say that I really enjoyed this album immensely.

Modern Burdens goes in the same order as its predecessor. The original led off with Mother Mother and Navy Bean – two fast paced songs that make you want to roll down your windows and speed down the highway around singing along with Tracy. With Mother Mother you got the angst. Like Tracy was out on her own for the first time trying to make it as a singer as she tries to deal with the realities of being on her own. The reimagining is slower (as they all are) but there are some great guitar and keyboards in the new version. When Tracy sings, “Everything’s fine.” now…she really sings it like everything is truly fine. Everything is fine. “Everything worked out, Mom. Don’t worry. I got to have an amazing career. Six albums. Tours. Seen the world. Got to hang with Aerosmith, Juliana Hatfield, Stephen Dewaele, and even the Blue Man Group.” The way Tracy sings her most famous chorus is now completely reassuring. Best part of the reimagined Navy Bean is the trippy guitars. Like I want to put a tab on the tongue, kick back, and listen to the song fifty times in a row. Navy Bean was one of my faves from the original album and it is one of the best from Modern Burdens. The new Sharks Don’t Sleep feels that way as well. On the original Tracy sang her ass off. Here’s there’s some harmony and much trippiness. I dig it a lot.

Not crazy about the new version of Tell It To The Sky (which was great on the original) but the next song Kisses was always one of the songs on Being Upright that I thought was….okay…ish. The new version is outstanding. It’s not Tracy singing on this song but an artist named Rachael Yamagata who I had never heard of before. But about ten words into her singing the song I was like, “Holy crap she has a great voice.” So Rachael instantly made a new fan. I always got that this song was about … Tracy’s ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend. Or maybe her (then) boyfriend cheating on Tracy with some other girl. I dunno. All I know is that the song comes off about fifty times as powerful then it did twenty years ago. If Rachael was smart she would add this song to the set list when she’s touring. She’s perfect.


On the original album I usually go back and forth on The One and Bulldog being my favorite song. The One is just a raucous rock song. Here? Here it’s Tracy’s voice and a piano. It is beautiful. It is like the song you play at the end of a romantic film where the two people who were never going to end up together end up together. Or maybe they don’t. Either way this is the song that should be playing as they look into each other’s eyes and kiss…..or look at each other and walk away forever. It makes me want to learn this song on the piano and have people over so I can give my own rendition. If there was ever a reason to remake this album, The One is the proof. This song makes me want to meet my wife all over again because it is how I felt when I first met her. I almost feel like just floating away when I listen. I have to be blunt in describing this. It is fucking fantastic.

Modern’s Bulldog it…makes me want to listen to the original. I just love that song too damn much. The album wraps up nicely. I really dig the new version of Every Breath. It lets Tracy (and Kay Hanley) rock out a bit.

Making Modern Burdens is a bold move. It is taking a classic kickass album and transforming it to tastes a bit different twenty years later. As artists grow they can tweak things a bit as they grow older. But I just saw McCartney a couple weeks ago and that dude wasn’t differentiating anything. He was still rocking his songs the same way like he was still 27 (though I was way more impressed with his live Temporary Secretary). So you can do the same old thing over and over again or you can differentiate. I’m glad Tracy differentiated.

I really wonder how she sounds live. A huge regret is not seeing 2001 Tracy Bonham on tour. I’m not sure if she toured for Blink but I was away for the Army when Blink was released and getting away to somewhere like Atlanta was easy…but PT on an hour’s sleep after a car ride back wasn’t always the easiest. With this album I really want to see Tracy live. I NEED to see Tracy live. As the past couple years have shown us you can never take your favorite artists for granted. Go see them now because you never know what tomorrow brings.

I’ve been a Tracy Bonham fan for TWENTY YEARS now. We’ve had our ups and we’ve had our downs.  I am ecstatic that this album came out so well. I’m not in love with every single song but it is an amazing experience overall. For new fans and old fans alike there is truly something for everyone on Modern Burdens.

Now come to Philly, Tracy. Or I’ll come up to NYC. Or you can always come to Trenton. I’ll get you booked wherever you would like to go. But it would be great to see you again…for the first time.

RANK: A-

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