So I’m back in an indie folk rut again, and the best way to summarize my current taste (other than Mount Eerie) is definitely Bon Iver. Yes, sad bearded-man folk music, but a lot more.
Justin Vernon recorded this album alone in a cabin in Northwestern Wisconsin (notice a trend here?) after an extreme breakup and a liver problem. While sitting alone in his cabin, Vernon watched a documentary concerning the Inuit. These people had a tradition of wishing each other a “bon hiver,” or “good winter” in French. Of course, “hiver” reminded Vernon too much of “liver,” which was causing him a good deal of pain, so he removed the H, making the name Bon Iver, which stuck.
Bon Iver is characterized by simple “strummy” folk guitar, occasionally masking a light glitch bass drum track, giving it a more upbeat sound, and, of course, Justin Vernon’s strong R&B-style falsetto vocals. No, not power metal falsettos; I’m talking big black guy-sounding falsettos. Of course, this one track of vocals doesn’t cut it; there needs to be over twenty tracks of Justin Vernon singing various harmonies, countermelodies, and bass tracks. Think of it as a choir of Justin Vernons; a big room of beardy-folk fellows that isn’t a coffee shop or record store (har dee har).
I had the opportunity to miss Bon Iver in concert (with The Tallest Man On Earth, a previously reviewed band), but from bootlegs and videos of live shows, Justin Vernon is accompanied by a live drummer and electric guitarist (does a lot of folk/post-rock/noise stuff O_o), but normally Vernon stands alone vocally, with occasional harmonies from everyone else. This more bleak sound is very pleasing, but a huge diversion from the more lush sound found on the album. Either way, it looks like Justin Vernon aims to please.
An interesting tidbit about Bon Iver live: Justin Vernon doesn’t want to be a one-guy-singing-with-a-guitar artist, so he has been known to hand out lyrics to the audience so they can sing along.
Overall, I like this album. A lot. It’s definitely up there with Mount Eerie’s “Lost Wisdom” for best album of the year, even though it was officially (self-) released last year.
Recommended for fans of: Low, Mount Eerie, Julie Doiron, Chuck Ragan, Neil Young, Steve von Till, and so on.