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First Watch: Haley Bonar, 'Kismet Kill'

Haley Bonar's songs marry fizzy arrangements to cuttingly quotable observations about love, disappointment, identity and the curdling of youth. Her new album, Impossible Dream, finds the underrated Minnesotan in top form, mixing darkness and light with a deft touch.

The video for "Kismet Kill," in which a party-loving prom queen stares down a life that can never compare to the glories of high school, captures many of Bonar's considerable gifts: Like her music, it pairs shimmery beauty and indelible imagery with an undercurrent of bleakness that can be almost suffocating. As always, "Kismet Kill" finds Bonar packing a cocktail of mixed emotions into bold, economical phrasing — "I was impossible when I was beautiful," she sings in the chorus — while never letting self-laceration stand in the way of a good earworm.

Impossible Dream comes out August 5 via Gndwire.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)