Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bon Iver - Calgary

For Emma, Forever Ago took a while to grow on me. On first listen, although I liked it, I found it almost impenetrable. By the third listen, I was suddenly overcome by the beauty of that record and it transformed into something much more tangible while maintaining its initial ethereal majesty. I’m not sure if it’s the familiarity with Bon Iver or the song itself, but Calgary seems much more accessible. As with the best of his work, the song is based around the voice which sounds as unique as ever. As soon as Justin Vernon opens his mouth you know this is a Bon Iver track. This is a good thing here as too often these low key tracks that start with just vocals and keyboards can end up sounding like indie versions of Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight. Thankfully, Bon Iver has some pretty tight quality control so what could have been a pretty banal song about a man laying with his lover is beautiful and haunting. Once the drums and guitars kick in about half way through it’s impossible not to love this song. As with the best of Bon Iver’s work, this song creeps up on you until it’s embedded in your heart.

Updated: I was so wrong about this track and album. The horrifying truth is here.



  1. Ah, yes, but then In the Air Tonight is a very special, singular track. I think I like it more for the effect of it than the Phil Collinsness of it.

    That said: nice Bon track too. I might need to get some more of his stuff. Recommendations?

  2. I don't know about this one, JH. I am not a fan of excessive vocal overdubs - especially irritating in headphones. His voice is so beautiful and, as you sad, distinctive, that I don't understand why he is doing this Fleet Foxes thing. It's excusable in an album recorded in a cabin but not when you have money and top-of-the-line recording studios and collaborators at your disposal. This track gets a bit blippy too. That said, I like it from when the drums kick in.

    I'm not one to judge, though. For one thing, I adored 'For Emma' but now don't love it so much (apart from Skinny Love and Re. Stacks, I am just not sure what he is saying anymore. It's more like excessively lovely and soothing background music). For another, I am no good at predicting growers. I foolishly dismissed "The Suburbs" AND "High Violet" so what do I know about anything?

    Glad you're loving it, though.

    I would only admit this to you and Reens but when In The Air Tonight comes on my old person radio station (I believe its cycle is 5x daily) I never switch stations. That's all I'm saying.

    x K

  3. Rino - my favourite song of his is Brackett, W 9, off the Dark was the Night comp. The other songs Katie mentioned are also excellent. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMndkU_WtnE

    Katie, you can never be sure about these things but after about three listens, I felt some connection to it. I think it is definitely mood music so you’ve got to be in that melancholy spot to enjoy it. It's interesting you've gone off Emma because I don't listen to it often but get shocked by how much I like it when I do. But I take your point, it is easy to zone out when listening to it and it becomes indie muzak or worse, indie muzak they play at hip cafes.

    And apart from all the evil Phil Collins has brought to the table (the conservative politics, the divorce fax, all his other music), anyone who doesn’t play air drums to THAT drum fill is a liar.