Bon Iver Better Than Ever

I’ve written various blogs about Bon Iver in the past, borderline preaching about the impact of their careful and meticulously made sounds, wailing about their brief departure from the music world, and obnoxiously cheering over his rumored return. For once, the rumor mill pumped out something great, something TRUE.  Bon Iver has in fact returned in full force, back with a new sound and releasing a brand new album TOMORROW.

All the way back in 2007, Bon Iver’s debut album For Emma, Forever Ago was released, giving the alternative music world a taste of something different. Heavy guitar and piano influences paired with founder, Justin Vernon’s beautiful falsetto vocals set a precedent for bands to come. The most popular track to emerge from the debut album was Skinny Love. In the last nine years, Skinny Love, has been covered over 400,000 times on Youtube. What makes the original so great, in my opinion, is its simplicity and the fact that you can hear the story behind the lyrics in Vernon’s voice.  

For me, each album represents the feeling of a season. For Emma, Forever Ago, instantly transports me to the cold, harshness of winter. I feel warm and cozy, as if I’m inside a log cabin, curled up next to a fireplace, looking out at a winter storm. Their sophomore, self-titled album, released in 2011, brings the feeling of new beginnings, much like the spring season. Bon Iver, Bon Iver shows off a different side to Vernon, showcasing off his deep, raspy vocals and giving us bigger, more complex, almost orchestral-like melodies. Perth is a great example of this, as it has been described as a “Civil War-sounding heavy metal song”. 

In 2012, Bon Iver received two Grammy awards for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Music Album. Shortly after, the group announced that they would be taking a break from making music. In an interview, Justin Vernon tried to explain the break up: 

“I don’t really write songs anymore. The last Bon Iver record was a very ‘sitting down with a guitar and writing’ kind of record… I really have to be in a specific headspace to even begin to illuminate an idea that would create another Bon Iver record, and I’m just not there. I’m really honored that Bon Iver gives me a platform to do whatever I want, but there’s only so much time you can spend digging through yourself before you become insular. I’m not in a hurry to go back to that temperature. All of the music I’ve been making shifting away from Bon Iver feels really good … so if I ever do go back to Bon Iver it will be all the better for it”

Even though Bon Iver wasn’t technically together, they still continued to put out amazing music. In 2010, they started collaborating closely with Kanye West, putting out tracks like Monster, Dark Fantasy, and Woods. Heavenly Father was released in 2014, and featured in the film Wish I Was Here. The original version of Heavenly Father is absolutely fantastic. But, in my opinion, there’s definitely something to be said about the live, acapella version. Vernon’s vocals are shown off like a prized possession and the heart and soul that you hear coming out of all those voices is enough to bring you to your knees.

In July of 2015, Bon played their first live show in three years at the Eaux Claires Music Festival and announced their new album, 22 A Million. This past August, two lyric videos were released from the new album. Upon first hearing Bon Iver’s new music, I’ll admit, I was skeptical at first. I can definitely hear Kanye’s influence within the three songs that have been released so far. It’s a very experimental sound but it’s still got that heavy, soul wrenching sound we know and love. My favorite of the released so far is without a doubt 33, God. It’s got a great driving beat, which is a definitely a change from the last two albums. 

I’ve been counting down the days until the release of the new album, 22, A Million. I’ve had it pre-ordered for the last three weeks and I am ready to hear all of the brand new musical magic Bon Iver has made. Approximately ten hours to go until the release, but I’d wait forever if I had to.