Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My Music Year #3

I resisted Bon Iver for much of 2008. He was a music blog baby and I was hesitant because sometimes the blog buzz is for an artist or band who may have a different sound but really isn't all that good. I finally decided to give him a shot and was glad to have found someone whose work I did like, so when his Blood Bank EP came out early this year, I quickly downloaded it.

The first song and title track is the highlight of the collection. Justin Vernon's falsetto is one of his signatures and in this minor key pulser he harmonizes with himself to gorgeous affect at the start of the song. The lyrics are interesting too: "Well I met you at the blood bank/we were looking at the bags/wondering if any of the colors/matched any of the names on the tags" are the opening lines in a song about family and secrets. It's a beautiful song and one of his best.

While the other three songs don't quite match the first, there are still pleasures to be found in the strum and slide guitar of "Beach Baby" and the dissonant piano of "Babys." The last song, "Woods," is just Vernon's voice run through Auto-Tune and then layered while he sings only, "I'm up in the woods/I'm down on my mind/I'm building a still/To slow down the time." When you first hear it, it sounds stupid and weird but repeated listens changes that impression into something more positive.

On the whole, that's what listening to Bon Iver needs to be. You need to hear the songs a few times to let the subtleties hit your ears and, at times, to understand what's he's saying. That falsetto is gorgeous, yes, but sometimes the diction isn't all that clear. It's a minor quibble, though.

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