In the beginning of 2007, I was a senior in high school. I listened to primarily punk/alternative rock music with the occasional ska and hardcore mixed in. I had just started a band with my three friends so we could play together in our school’s senior talent show. I went to shows, hung out with my band, and felt completely in my element. At the time, I had no idea my music taste would change again four years later (no pun intended) as it abruptly did when I was a high school freshman. I had no idea what album was in the process of being created and how it would come into my life when I was in an entirely different place.
In the winter of 2007, Justin Vernon (who I mentioned in my Grammy’s post) decided to spend 3 months in his father’s Wisconsin cabin after a rough time in his life (band break-up, relationship ending, battling mono). His intention was to recuperate from those circumstances, but what happened was the creation of an incredible work of musical art. He wrote and recorded songs completely by himself. He named his project “Bon Iver” which was his own variation of the French expression “bon hiver” meaning “good winter”.
Bon Iver’s first album was released in limited capacity in late spring 2007 (500 copies). The album entitled For Emma, Forever Ago contained the original recordings Vernon did while in seclusion in the cabin. The CD release show took place at the House of Rock in Eau Claire, Wisconsin (now home to Eaux Claires Music Festival which Vernon created). After the release show, the album received some attention from blog sites and indie publication site, Pitchfork, which lead to an eventual signing with indie label Jagjaguwar. The album was re-released in February 2008 under the new label, and went on to have much success, especially the song “Skinny Love”.
In 2009, Bon Iver released the EP Blood Bank featuring three new songs, “Beach Baby”, “Babys”, and “Woods”, and previously recorded song “Blood Bank” which didn’t make the cut on the first album. Bon Iver’s sophomore self-titled album was released on June 17, 2011. The album slightly differed in its sound compared to the first which featured a more intimate approach that really focused on Vernon’s vocals and guitar playing. The sound in For Emma, Forever Ago was so beautifully simplistic. The self-titled album kept the same mellow Bon Iver feel, but featured a more advanced sound quality. Obviously it wasn’t recorded in the same type of environment as the first. It used more instrumentals and had less of a focus on the vocals and guitar. Nonetheless it was still a beautiful compilation of music. In fact, the following year the album received a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album and Bon Iver received the Grammy for Best New Artist (which always struck me as amusing considering he was not at all “new” at the time).
I had not even heard of Bon Iver until after the release of the second album. Like I said before, I was in a totally different place musically when the first album was released. When the second came out, I had just started to get into the indie scene. It was still a few months later when I first heard “Skinny Love”. I really can’t remember how or when I first heard the song. It might have been a recommendation from a friend or it might have been on a Pandora station, which I frequently used to find new music at the time. Either way, it was in September of 2011 that I first heard it. I immediately took to the song. It was much softer than other things I listened to at that time. I would tend to listen to it when I was feeling upset. I was upset often then too. I went through a difficult transitional period around that time where I began questioning a lot of things regarding my future and aspirations. To say music is what I turned to is an understatement. Music always helps me, no matter what I’m feeling, and it helped then too. “Skinny Love” was just a part of that. Within the next few months I purchased both For Emma, Forever Ago and Bon Iver. I also became a big fan of the song “Holocene”. I’ve always felt that Bon Iver’s music is the perfect soundtrack for fall and winter. It’s possible because that’s when I first listened to it. It’s also possible because it has a peaceful, mellow sound that mixes well with the cold air and lifeless conditions the seasons bring. You can be the judge if you listen to my song recommendations.
Anyway, Bon Iver went on hiatus in 2012 and has not released any new music since. Recently though, Vernon confirmed that the hiatus has come to an end as the group intends to play the inaugural Eaux Claires Music Festival in July. New material should follow. Until then we just have to wait to see what’s in-store for Justin Vernon and his band.
1. Skinny Love
3. Blood Bank
4. I Can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt cover) (so much better than the original)
8. Creature Fear