Sunday, June 26, 2011

Music From Heaven

A Bon Iver-Inspired Photo I Took Sometime Last Week

Not too long ago, I called the voice of Fleet Foxes' Robin Pecknold "ethereal" - a somewhat pretentious word, admittedly, but is honestly right on the mark.
I mean, read up on it at and then watch this video, and try to describe how you feel without using the word.   Eth-ee- re-al:  Not of this world: Maybe of another.

Anyway, I'm here today (a Sunday) to tell you,
if you're looking for a fuller foretaste of heaven,
and you enjoy music that doesn't so much pack an 80s rocker punch
but tugs at your heart and stirs your gut,
then look no further than Bon Iver.

[which in French means "Good Winter"though the singer-songwriter Justin Vernon didn't know it at the time he picked the name.]

He just came out with his sophomore album (Bon Iver, Bon Iver) last week.
And since then, he's been on Stephen Colbert AND Jimmy Fallon; he's announced his summer tour dates and locations [he's coming to NYC in August, including the United Palace Theater, which is an amazingly eclectic bit of architectural wonder, but of course it's already sold out]; and he's received a 9.5/10 on the indie-rock scene's Gatekeeper of Criticism - Pitchfork magazine.
So he's kinda a big deal.

Probably one reason Pitchfork gave Bon Iver such a nice review is because they'd interviewed him twice (three years ago and earlier this month) and gotten some pretty good personal stories and laughed at his little jokes and seen he's got depth and integrity... and they liked his stuff.
Because, see, that's where his music thrives: On Letting us Inside.

Spending weeks in a Wisconsin cabin somewhere lonely and alone, making music of romantic loss is bound to give you some emotional depth.
And that's what Bon Iver did with his first album, For Emma, Forever Ago (2008).
Now with Bon Iver (2011), he's breaking in and up and out - carving out a cave-like chamber of fantastic, hallucinatory, sweet-dreaming sound.
And he's happy. And we're happy.
And the world is at rest.

Justin Vernon's drawn on Neil Young for inspiration, collaborated with superstar Kanye West, been compared to Brooklyn's TV on the Radio, and been said to transcend the Beach Boys' harmonic falsetto. I'd say he's reaching epic proportions.
On Bon Iver, Bon Iver, there's even a kickback to the 80s of Phil Collins and Bruce Hornsby in the closing song "Beth/Rest."
(I don't really know who Bruce Hornsby is by the way, so feel free to educate me in the comments.)
So he's pretty great.

But, some people are saying his success as an artist is a sign of the rock world wimping out!
Where did they get that from?
I bought Bon Iver, Bon Iver last Tuesday, as soon as it came out, having finally gotten a hold of his first album only the beginning of the month, when a friend near Chicago forced it in my hands. And I've been listening to him almost non-stop. Yeah, the week's been kinda dreamy - and I've felt sorta like I'm dropping in and out of consciousness - and the music's only amplified my sometime melancholic demeanor - but that doesn't mean the music's flimsy!

Okay, okay. that's not what they're saying. I'm gonna try to calm down...

I also really enjoyed these two reviews that seem to simultaneously admire and tease the beauty of Bon Iver.

There's a mystery that intrigues in bands like KISS that wear outrageous costumes and absurd facepaint. But I think there's also something attractive about the gender-ambiguous, emotionally-in-touch, ridiculous sensitivity of Bon Iver.

And it reminds me of heaven.

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