Listening to Bon Iver – a band named after the intentional misspelling of the French expression bon hiver, pronounced bonn ee-vairr, and meaning “good winter” – doesn’t exactly conjure thoughts of beaches and hammocks. Instead, Justin Vernon, the man behind the music, creates melodies with an air of rustic beauty that are impossible to describe without using a woodsy nature metaphor.
It is this summer that I constantly found myself lost in the delicate, and sometimes grizzly, rhythms of Vernon, whose voice is both coarse yet elegant. Particularly striking are those songs that drift gently toward an ending and then collapse into a collage of sound, layered like an immense burst of emotion.
His first album, For Emma, Forever Ago, was recorded by heartbroken Vernon alone in the Northwestern Wisconsin woods. What emerged from that forsaken cabin in the woods is an album that evokes profound imagery that goes well beyond emotive expression, and into the realm of artistic innovation.
It was in this vein of creativity and virtuosity that Vernon channeled into his pseudo-self-titled album Bon Iver, Bon Iver. Anchored by Vernon’s poignant voice, his new album is leap into musical expressionism – less about lyrical continuity and more about evocative
abstraction. What emerged was an album that provoked critics to dig deep into their vocabulary for words reserved for the most ethereal experiences. Each listen, over and over, reveals new details buried beneath layers of sound, so much so, that it makes For Emma, Forever ago seem primitive in its arrangement; every detail painstakingly nurtured by Vernon himself. Even the geographic theme of the album’s tracks was not lost on Mark Richardson, of Pitchfork magazine, it’s “less about geography and more about putting a name to a state of mind that mixes clarity and surrealism.”
It is to this background that summer has marched past.
Special thanks to Ariel Schwartz for helping out with this post. I could have done it without him, but this post wouldn’t be a third as good as it is now. You can visit his recent post about Bon Iver’s recent 930 Club show, or you can experience his great taste in music by checking his whole blog here.
- Bon Iver – Can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt Cover)
- Bon Iver – Blood Bank
- Bon Iver – Skinny Love
- Bon Iver – Creature Fear
- Bon Iver – Minnesota, WI
- Bon Iver – Towers