“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.