Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

ACL Explains it All: Bon Iver

July 20, 2009

One problem with reviewing is that occasionally people run up against bands that they like for reasons that are almost entirely unknown to them. This is fine, if you’re not in the business of telling people why you like things or don’t like things.

Bon Iver is exactly this way for me. I didn’t like Bon Iver the first time I heard his album For Emma, Forever Ago, but the more I heard it, the more his creaky, high voice grew on me. His songwriting, full of reverb, far-off sounds and repetition, sounds of loneliness, but not your usual “i’m without a girl” loneliness. It sounds like he’s literally alone, with no one around. The songs sound forlorn.

This is not necesarily something that convinces people to listen to Bon Iver. Telling someone that the songs sound lonelier than anyone else’s is not necessarily the way to get them to listen (unless they like Jose Gonzalez, and then it might be). There’s just something comforting in the imperfectness of Bon Iver’s songs. They’re well-recorded, but they sound like they’re not. They feel authentic; more real. They feel old.

See all that? Bon Iver is one of my favorite new artists, but I can’t explain why I like it. All the things I like about his music are the things that most people hate in music; those are usually the detractors. But they are what endear me to his music. His songs aren’t even really that hummable. He’s a total enigma to me; this might be why I like him so much. But he stymies my ability to review him. I guess some things weren’t meant to be said.

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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