The bandwagon had nearly passed me when Tony Jones and ASC grabbed me by the collar and pulled me aboard the Bon Iver Experience (seeing them on Letterman and immediately finding their album on Amazon for 5 bucks didn’t hurt, either) . Mood music made in the dead of winter in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, it is good in the great tradition of sad, sad music. Holing up in his dad’s hunting cabin, Justin Vernon was trying to forget about music and lick his wounds after losing both his band and his girlfriend. Yet he nevertheless made a great album full of songs of longing and loss, of bitter winter and the hope for spring. Listening, one can practically hear the wind on the windows, breathe the dry air, see the ice on the lake, and feel the isolation which is interrupted only by gathering with friends to sing about it.
It is certainly a rough and uneven collection of songs, and I’ve heard the critique that the emotional depth of the songs is not completely explored on the album. After seeing ‘Skinny Love’ on Letterman (video above), with it’s bare instrumentation, thunderous drumming, and haunting lyrics and harmonies, I’d have to agree. And perhaps the saddest thing about this collection of sad songs is that is probably unique, never to be surpassed or repeated. Like Damien Rice’s ‘O’, another once-in-a-lifetime collaborative effort, one quickly surmises that the best efforts of Bon Iver have already been captured in digits. Still, this is an album that will be echoing for a very long time.