Courtesy of Bon Iver
Bon Iver – “Skinny Love”
After the breaking up of his band and of his girlfriend and during a period of prolonged sickness, Jason Vernon went into hibernation for four months. He delved deep into the frostbitten woods of Northern Wisconsin, to a remote cabin in the dead of winter, where he spent his days reading by the fire, listening to music and recovering from the pains of the outside world. He ate whatever he could afford and performed simple day-to-day tasks like chopping logs to pass the time. Soon, his days evolved into cathartic, emotionally-charged instrumental sessions. He had turned the cabin into a studio, and when he emerged, he had developed For Emma, Forever Ago — what I would contend is the most personal and best record of 2008.
Vernon took on the name Bon Iver — which, appropriately, is a basterdized form of the French “bon hiver,” or “good winter.” He constructed the bare bones of a song — the melody and guitar — then listened to that base layer over and over until he formed lyrics for each tone that he found fitting. By layering his vocals, he creates a lush, beautiful sound that is as warm as a fire on a cold winter day.
On Bon Iver’s debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago, each of the nine songs are carefully constructed with acoustic guitars and chilling harmonies. In “Flume,” the album’s haunting opener, Bon Iver layers multiple guitars, drums and strings into a depressing ode to loneliness and isolation. While the tone of the album is far from happy, the album manages not to linger too long on bleakness, with songs like “For Emma” that bear triumphant horn sections and major chord progressions.
However, the greatest beauty of Vernon’s work is the replay value. I find myself enjoying different parts of the album with every different mood I’m in, and picking a favorite track on this record is damned near impossible. Every song is worthwhile, each guitar riff and lyric feels deeply personal and with every listen, the audience feels more and more rewarded, being pulled into Vernon’s world one melody at a time.
In their first single, “Skinny Love,” the most accessable and personal track on the album, Bon Iver asks “Who will love you? / Who will fight? / Who will fall far behind?” and you wonder if Vernon had asked himself those same questions in his cabin two winters ago. He searched for the answers through solitude, recuperation and his music. What had once been an awful and depressing period in his life has changed into a “good” winter, one that now, he is able to share with us.
by Asst. Entertainment Editor Geoff Schorkopf