One of my coworkers told me about the brilliant musician Justin Vernon who took a number of months while recovering from illness in a cabin in Wisconsin to record a full album on his own employing some basic equipment and would have sold the album entirely on his own but decided to sign to fantastic record label Jagjaguwar, home of such other luminaries as Dinosaur Jr. and Black Mountain.
Just this story sold me on the idea of giving Bon Iver a try and so when my coworker told me that he then went on to get together with other musicians to play the songs from the album live — it turns out that when you have an album on which you overdub vocal tracks multiple times, it is difficult to replicate while playing live if you are on your own. According to my coworker, who saw him performing live one of the first few times he ventured out on his own, he distributed copies of the lyrics to the audience and asked that they participate in recreating the sound of the album — apparently, it did not go over so well and so eventually other musicians started joining him that then became part of the band.
The new album, titled either just “Bon Iver” or “Bon Iver, Bon Iver” has ten tracks of lovely sound. Each of the tracks represents different places. Whether they are all different places the artist has been or not, they are a clear departure (pun not strictly intended) from the songs on the first album. Not only did Vernon record the album with other musicians, he employed musicians as varied as an entire horn section and a pedal steel guitarist. Here, for example, is a song called Calgary.
The album has clever yet cryptic lyrics, such as these from Calgary —
Joy, it’s all founded
Pincher with the skin inside
You pinned me with your black sphere eyes
You know that all the rope’s untied
I was only for to die beside
They are the sort of lyrics that you listen to and enjoy and then ponder over for months and years to come. I’m hoping that as I listen to the album more I may be able to glean more intent from the lyrics. For now, I am more than happy to listen to the pleasant melodies and enjoy the song stylings of Bon Iver.