Bob Nanna lays his post-divorce life bare on Celebration States | Music Review | Chicago Reader

Bob Nanna lays his post-divorce life bare on Celebration States 

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click to enlarge Bob Nanna

Bob Nanna

Katie Hovland

Midwestern emo cornerstone Bob Nanna made his bones working guarded feelings into nervy posthardcore with anthemic ambitions. Nanna started his streak in the early 90s with teenage band Friction, and by the end of the decade he’d established himself as scene royalty, fronting Braid and then Hey Mercedes. He also took up writing solo material in 1997, and in the mid-2000s he began issuing it as City on Film. As prolific as he’s been, only now is he finally releasing music under his given name. The timing is significant: Celebration States (New Granada) is his first album since his divorce. He recorded these songs—the most openly autobiographical of his career so far—on what would’ve been his anniversary last year. Atop unvarnished acoustic guitars, he sings about his dissolving marriage and the malaise that followed in diaristic detail, but even at his lowest—suffering from loneliness that keeps him up at night (“Come Home”), self-medicating with pills (“In Reverse”)—he never lets himself abandon his sense of personal responsibility. Ultimately Celebration States is less a breakup record and more a measured recollection of the difficult steps he took to build a new life afterward. In most other contexts, Nanna pushes his voice till it starts to unravel, but here he’s gentle with his throat—and eventually with himself.   v

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