#6 on the 2011 Musical Bacon Calendar
Bon Iver’s second album falls into a special category I affectionately call “airplane music.” This is not a bad thing, but a somewhat coveted spot in my music library. You could also call this category “music to sleep to,” but I never listen to music while sleeping at home any more. Only on airplanes, when I’m looking to drown out the drone of the plane and the inane chatter of the great unwashed. Up to this point, the category only had one band in it: Sigur Rós. So Bon Iver is now in good company.
Saying this album is good to sleep to doesn’t give a good sense of what it’s like to listen to the album. It’s lush, moreso than anything else you’ve heard this year. Layer upon layer of sound, from horns, strings, guitars and multiple voices (usually falsetto) all expertly blended together into a pillowy bed of cashmere.
At its heart, Bon Iver is Justin Vernon. Where his first album, For Emma, Forever Ago was mainly just Vernon performing alone, Bon Iver, Bon Iver is much more of a collaboration, allowing for much more experimentation with sound. Much like Radiohead’s The King of Limbs, Bon Iver invites the listener to push their ears even closer to the speaker, to turn up the sound to the loudest possible level, so as to hear everything that each song entails.
Bon Iver came through the Paramount Theater here in Seattle in late September, and played a sold-out performance on the beautiful stage there. Vernon brought 8 or more musicians with him (I did count them, but I didn’t write about the show and my memory is failing me, here, 3 months later), and the performance was nothing less than extraordinary. Much like Sigur Rós, the quieter, more involved tracks that force people to listen with intent make for an unbelievable show. And then when the powerful guitar choruses come in, with the lights blaring, you’re forced to rise up in your chair and take notice. It was truly the best.
This album takes a few listens to sink in — don’t abandon it after the first listen. In fact, you can hear the whole album before you buy it by watching the series of videos the band put together for the ten songs on the album. The video above, for “Michicant” is part of that series, all of which is available on YouTube. There’s plenty here to enjoy, and much more to discover even after you’ve heard it 10 times. Pick it up, then watch yourself not be able to put it down.
7. The King of Limbs by Radiohead
8. Bad As Me by Tom Waits
9. Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes
10. The Youth Die Young by Mad Rad
11. Last Night On Earth by Noah and the Whale
12. Codes and Keys by Death Cab For Cutie
13. Valley of the Headless Men by Ravenna Woods
14. Hot Sauce Committee Part Two by Beastie Boys
15. James Blake by James Blake
16. Hysterical by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
17. An Argument with Myself by Jens Lekman
18. The Whole Love by Wilco
19. My Goodness by My Goodness
20. My Head is an Animal by Of Monsters and Men
21. Gloss Drop by Battles
22. Showroom of Compassion by CAKE
23. A New Kind of House EP by Typhoon
24. EP by Grouplove
25. Fan Chosen Covers (Best of) by Eef Barzelay
26. TKOL RMX 1234567 by Radiohead
27. Organ Music Not Virbraphone Like I’d Hoped by Moonface
28. Heavy Boots & Underwoods by Ben Fisher
29. The Rip Tide by Beirut
30. Collapse Into Now by R.E.M.
31. I Am Very Far by Okkervil River