Archive for June, 2011

Bon Iver – Bon Iver

The dismal setting of my office – distinctly small, hot, and intern-insignificant – witnessed a shining beacon of joy this morning when my resolute Pitchfork perusal enlightened me to the fact that Bon Iver is streaming a well-awaited new album. The mere thought of this truth was surely enough to energize me with bliss, but better was listening to it the first time. It isn’t often that when listening to a new album I’m so carelessly blissful for anything beyond the newness of the album. But this time, the album in and of itself made me just so happy. I had to smile like a maladroit fool all the while I listened. Justin and company, you’ve truly outdone yourselves this time.

I also had an overwhelming feeling that summer had arrived and it wasn’t just because the sweat trickling down my brow despite a fan blowing directly in my face. I love so much that this album isn’t just a repeat of For Emma, Forever Ago. It is undeniably Bon Iver, but it is also something quite different and grand. For Emma was a success story of artistic silence intertwined with brilliant falsetto and masterful guitar work of unique timbre. Honest musings of rural satisfaction brought a music world to its knees in willing surrender and Bon Iver stood the victor for a new direction of “indie” music.

In Bon Iver, Justin and crew ensure all that their reign is supreme and just. Masters of timbre from the first song, something is just so powerful about those first few chords in “Perth”. As I listened my smile only got brighter. I can’t even understand how someone finds such a perfect tone for a guitar and matches it even more perfectly with just the right progression. It’s nothing else but masterful.

In that way, I can’t understand the entirety of the album at all; I mean, I can’t begin to understand how someone does something like this. How is every choice they make for every song so clearly the right one? The skeptic in me wanted to be certain that Perth and Calgary were the only good songs on the album, but the optimist in me beat the shit out of the skeptic, stood over his battered frame, spit, and said “I told you so!”

I was quite right about the sounds of Gayngs leaking into Bon Iver’s work. “Beth/Rest” reminds me a lot of the closing ballad, “Last Prom on Earth”, of Relayted. Again Bon Iver’s choice of tone becomes a focal point of an excellent piece of music. Opting for a fuller sound than For Emma the band employs a larger drum presence (contrasting the lone floor tom act of “Skinny Love”), more electric accompaniment, and the collaboration of other well-known artists like Colin Stetson. By his lonesome Mr. Stetson’s music is something to behold, but it just makes so much sense for him to join the Bon Iver crew for this go around.

I wish I knew more about music to give this album a better informed analysis. For me it’s enough to notice just how happy listening makes me, but the important thing to get out of all of this, is that I like (read: love) Bon Iver’s Bon Iver. Listen to it now for free, but when it’s released, spend the money.


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Battles – Glass Drop

While it is excellent news that the new Bon Iver album is streaming this very day, I had planned to write an opinion of Battles’ new album first. So here goes; I might have to keep it short so that I don’t explode before I write what I want to about the new Bon Iver album.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Battles and what they do with experimental/math rock. Mirrors is one of those albums that helped define my early, serious music appreciation. The sporadic, yet contained style of Battles is something to behold. In Mirrored, the beginning, middle and end flow so elegantly in their most intriguing fashion; the singles truly should remain part of the whole – a masterpiece.

Glass Drop does not disappoint. Without being exactly what I determined to expect, it is exactly what I think it should be. The band lost Tyondai Braxton on vocals, a defining point of Mirrored, but they do well without him. Going back to their root sound heard on their earlier EPs, Battles works through a more instrumental format while pinning some excellent vocal additions along the way. The guitar riffs in this album compliment those of Mirrored, while taking a direction and feeling all of their own.

If all you’re up for is the standard rock group with guitar, bass, vocals, and drums, then don’t come to Battles for an easy listen. Math rock is not for the feint of heart, but it is rewarding in its own ways. I wouldn’t fall asleep to it, but I would calmly sit down and listen to its majestic irregularity. Glass Drop is good progress for Battles; it keeps the distinctive parts of the band, and it goes deeper into a genre worth venturing into.

Whether or not I rushed through this album opinion dying to push through one about the Bon Iver album stream, the important thing to get out of all of this, is that I like Battles’ Glass Drop.

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The Anticipation

So let’s talk about things I really like and absolutely cannot wait to hear more of, specifically, Bon Iver’s sophomore album. A good while ago I picked up a single release, “Calgary”, and upon recent rediscovery in my library, I have to listen to it at least once a day. When that quota is met, I usually end up listening to it many more times.

I love just about everything Justin Vernon is a part of; from Bon Iver to his work on Volcano Choir and even into his appearances on Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Naturally, his album coming out soon is giving me jitters. I just can’t wait much longer. In the mean time, though, “Calgary” will have to quench my thirst. You should check it out, too. There’s clearly the classic Bon Iver style of falsetto beauty, but it throws down a very full orchestra sound on top of his folksy sound heard on For Emma, Forever Ago. You can also hear some of the remnants of the sounds heard in Gayngs, another collaborative work of Justin’s. The harmonies are ballad-like and solid. The simple drumming politely keeps the groove charging. It’s fantastic and it’s hopefully just a taste of something spectacular coming later this June. Take a listen.

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