Bon Iver – Bon Iver

“Why don’t I just title this next album eponymously?” thought Bon “Bon Iver” Iver as he titled his third album. “I don’t need a real theme, but I’ll title most of the tracks after fictional locations to make it seem like there is one. I’ll still name a couple after real places just to mess with people, though.”

In his apartment, intrepid music reviewer Myles Stocker was hot on the case. He took a drink of his beer, – Rickard’s White in a tall can – checked the score of the ongoing World Series game, and set to considering Bon Iver’s latest album. ‘Perth, the opening track, sure has a fascinating, almost hard-rock riff. On a metal album it’d fit in nicely as the quietest, most pensive moment. But here it’s the most excited Bon gets.’ He took another drink of beer and continued listening. Listening and checking the baseball score.

In his compound, contemporary musician Iver was considering how his airy, mysterious voice lent itself naturally to nostalgia, while allowing him to avoid saying concrete lyrics, allowing songs to be formed through atmosphere entirely, wantonly ignoring some reviewers’ preference for statements and shit. “I’ll just make up words once in a while,” he said aloud to his empty, lonely recording studio into which he had returned for no obvious reason, “but make them sound close to real words, to frustrate those who would struggle to find the words.”

At home, Stocker clicked an anxious pen nervously. “Hey Myles,” said the pen, Penny, “maybe the fucking brilliance of this goddamned album is that it reminds you of good times without being judgmental.”

“Is that why, Penny, that “whoa-whoa” in ‘Towers’ reminds me of the Wizard of Oz? Or why “Beth / Rest” sounds like an awful, awful 80s prom song that just gets worse and worse?”

“Myles,” said Penny penfully, “the first is just you being funny, the second is the album’s one misstep. The rest is a gentle meditation on his, and all of our, younger days up to about the end of high school. And holy fuck is ‘Holocene’ ever good! That cocksucking guitar riff is fucking shitballs of awesome cocaine.”

In his music lab, Bon Iver contemplated how he inserted a meaningless instrumental track. He then changed mental topics abruptly. “I have created a song named ‘Calgary’ that will divide listeners, but ultimately the keyboards will feel like slo-mo sex and the vocals like sped-up streetcar rides to wonderful places. This album represents growth from my previous album. It’s marginally louder, but it’s a departure from trying to sound indie. It’s less self-consciously hip, but it’s more focused on universal themes, while still coming closer to rocking than I’ve done before.”

Penny felt his head being chewed thoughtfully. “There are slow moments,” said Myles, “but they accentuate the loud ones. This isn’t a conventional album. This is a collection of wonderful sounds, more like Eno than like, say, R.E.M., but the sounds are accessible, so it’s better than anything ambient, while still serving an ambient purpose. And that’s when it’s not throwing brilliance at you, which it admittedly only does a couple times.”

Far away, Iver smiled and came.

“No shit,” said Penny, “I suggest a high rating!”

“Except for Beth/ Rest, this is a great album!” Myles exclaimed, and finished his beer.

8/10

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Bon Iver – Blood Bank

It’s a new review!! Hey everyone everywhere – have you heard about the NEW REVIEW over at Myles’ Music Reviews? It’s a NEW REVIEW. As in, a review, but A NEW ONE. And ten more reviews can be yours for only TEN DOLLARS PLUS E-SHIPPING AND E-HANDLING. Don’t miss this GRATE OPPORTUNITY!

In the movie version I’ll have linked to a picture of a grate right there. Get it? Yeah, you get it. You’re a smart lass.

Okay! So there’s only four songs here. It’s an EP, which means “Extended Play” which means “short record.” Best not to wonder about that one. The four songs are quite different, you know. The titular track is a shockingly great (and upsetting in its romance) catchy-tune-o, all wrapped up in blankets around the line “we started to kiss.” It’s a love story and a good one, one that feels like darkest winter with its distant guitar and cherubic vocals and idealistic lyrics. Oh, to fall in love at a blood bank. It enhances the desire but decreases the performance. Worth at least ten listens, for it gets better the more you hear it.

Then there are three worse songs. There’s “Beach Baby,” a completely unmemorable acoustic guitar song. What’s it about? Beats me, and I’ve heard it fifty times! Then there’s “Babys,” a clangy clangy piano song that only gets around to talking about how “summer comes to multiply” without going into much more detail over its four minutes of running time. It has no repeating parts or anything, so all you get is piano clanging and not much else. Last there’s “Woods,” almost five minutes of various vocodered ways of saying where Bon Iver is and what he’s doing while he’s there, over and over and over. It’s neat, I guess, if you’re really into production, but there’s not much to hang your brain on if you’re listening for pleasure.

So, um, Okay! Bon Iver rarely makes bad songs, but his kindliness gets very backgroundy rather often, and the last three songs here emphasize that. It’s a good make-out EP, I guess, but you’ll want something else once you start having more fun. But oh, that glorious title track.

7/10

Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

Alex Solzy asked “what’s life for, if what’s required is to not live?” and I think he was onto the whole point of everything forever. Bon Iver seems as though he gives a shit about living and feeling and that’s rather nice, even if I don’t know what the hell he’s singing about most of the time.

It behooves the review to speak of the actual content of the songs, so lettuce do that, shall we? Everything everything forever everything comes down to a warm acoustic guitar strummed all speaker-fillingly and Bon’s cherubic voice. It’s almost unreal, the voice that is, angelic to the point where the words sound like they’re ascending to the heavens and there’s nothing you can do. The story is something about a cabin in the woods and a months of sadness and venting. Perhaps it’s an epitome of indie shy-boy cuteness, perhaps (but not) it’s the emasculation of modern man. Perhaps it’s a long-forgotten reaction to old Zim, all directness and sadness and beauty.

Yes, yes, but are the songs any cocksucking good? Yes, they’re mostly very good. Could I ever dislike a song called “Skinny Love”? It’s not catchy like a pop song, but it stays up there, percolating like coffee, making you introspective not like coffee because that was a bad analogy. There are only nine songs and one of them is a continuation – this is your month away? But this is not pornography. There’s only pathos here, but it’s so soft. It’s softer than clouds made of marshmallows, and you shouldn’t be eating those. The guitar tone is so warm it lights up the night, but gently. You could almost scream, but it’s so soothing.

Are you nice and quiet? Are you apathetic? Then this is your bed and breakfast. Are you cynisterical and wheezing? Then this is your meditation. Either way this is an aphrodisiac. Fair dinkum, this is a record that touches greatness for what it tries to be. You da man.

9/10