My my my
June 20, 2008 8:07 PM   Subscribe

After breaking up with his band, Justin Vernon retreated to his father's cabin in the northwoods of Wisconsin to recuperate over the winter.

His loss (and the breakup with a girlfriend a few years earlier) was our gain, as he emerged from the cabin with the songs that became For Emma, Forever Ago, released and performed under the stage name Bon Iver. He's touring like crazy on at least two of the continents, and opening for Wilco for a few dates. Check out his haunting performance of "Skinny Love" on Later . . . with Jools Holland.
posted by Kibbutz (58 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
My first reaction was to click your username to see if your first name was Justin.
posted by dobbs at 8:14 PM on June 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


My first reaction was to click your username to see if your first name was Bon.
posted by ND¢ at 8:17 PM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Holy Dave Matthews, Batman
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:23 PM on June 20, 2008


Oh, and Bon Iver also has a track up on the Black Cab Sessions site. I'm not a fan of his record so will link to Phosphorescent's track there instead--the BI track is but a click away from it for those who dig him.
posted by dobbs at 8:24 PM on June 20, 2008


Why does every album have to have a damn origin story nowadays? "Bob fell out of a tree and went to India for six months and had his ear chopped off and made Still Falling just with one ear." "Sally locked herself in a air tight oil drum with a bag of apples, two maracas and and a tape recorder and she emerged a month later having made AAAAHHH APPLES AGGRRGGGHH." Whatever happened to the origin story: "A bunch of dudes sat around a recording studio smoking pot and noodling around on instruments and made a record and now are out promoting the damn thing"?
posted by ND¢ at 8:29 PM on June 20, 2008 [47 favorites]


Incidentally, I'm typing this message from the depths of the Wisconsin wilderness.
posted by not applicable at 8:33 PM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hold on a sec... a guy in his twenties had a band that broke up, and he broke up with his girlfriend? Shit. That he was even able to write some songs on his accoustic guitar after such harrowing experiences is a testament to the strength of his character.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:34 PM on June 20, 2008 [38 favorites]


Soulless.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:41 PM on June 20, 2008


Sorry, but "he emerged from the cabin" is where I started to giggle.
posted by davebush at 8:43 PM on June 20, 2008


Give him time, Greg. The pain is too fresh to start drawing comics about it.
posted by yhbc at 8:43 PM on June 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


So, uhm, the few sections where he wasn't affecting a falsetto were pretty cool. Other than that I eventually was skipping ahead to see if there were any more songs where he didn't affect a falsetto.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:55 PM on June 20, 2008


Damn, I wish my dad had had a cabin I could go to to "recuperate" after my old band broke up. Alas, I just had to drag my sorry ass back to my apartment in Brooklyn. Then I had to go back to my shitty day job, you know, the next morning.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:04 PM on June 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


Also, The Band had Big Pink and they even managed to name an album after it without making it sound so twee that they had a house.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:05 PM on June 20, 2008


Not to mention the fact that they had a pile of kickass songs.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:06 PM on June 20, 2008


The Band, that is.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:06 PM on June 20, 2008


Only thing more annoying than the "chick with a guitar" genre is the "falsetto dude with a guitar" genre. Some can pull them off, but it's a rare, rare few.

Welcome to open-mic night.
posted by Eekacat at 9:12 PM on June 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Women are a genre?
posted by regicide is good for you at 9:32 PM on June 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


"Female singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar" is a genre, as far as I can tell.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:34 PM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


not .com, but .org! bleargh
posted by thedaniel at 10:20 PM on June 20, 2008


Whatever, I think the Bon Iver album is quite nice. Not the revelation that some claim, but solid, and pretty. And relatively guile-free, which is relatively rare.
posted by nonreflectiveobject at 10:47 PM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


The pain is too fresh to start drawing comics about it.

A hit, a most palpable hit!
posted by Greg Nog at 10:52 PM on June 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Okay, okay, we get it. You're all really super tough and authentic and could all beat up a hundred hipsters while grinnin' a bar to death and drinking warm whiskey through a rattlesnake.

Try DeYarmond Edison, at least.
posted by StopMakingSense at 10:58 PM on June 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


while grinnin' a bar to death

Sometimes you eat the bar and sometimes the bar, well, eats you.
posted by nasreddin at 11:27 PM on June 20, 2008


I, for one, am not too cool to like Bon Iver. He gave a pretty damn good show at my school this past semester; I hadn't seen him before that.
posted by dismas at 11:36 PM on June 20, 2008


Bon Iver is a pseudonym derived from lightly mangling the French term "bon hiver," or "good winter." I hate this a lot and I'm not entirely sure why. Let's see what equivalently irritating, subtly subtractive names we can make in English! A few suggestions:

Salad Ba
Lovely Wather
Plat of Beans


Even if I end up enjoying the guy's music, my inscrutable sense of aesthetic justice may never be satisfied regarding his stage name. Am I the only one?
posted by lumensimus at 12:24 AM on June 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


Sometimes you eat the bar and sometimes the bar, well, eats you.

True enough. In music, though, sometimes it seems the bar gets lowered further and further.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:35 AM on June 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm laughing so hard I can't use the mouse to click "favorite." That was 100% pure awesome!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:19 AM on June 21, 2008


I saw him open for Elvis Perkins this winter. He was really moving and funny, and this was before all the internet hype and snarky hipsters and shit.

I wish I had words for you Pitchfork-reading neckbeards shitting all over this thread. Speaking as someone who has expressed some rather vehement perspectives on popular music here on the blue, someone will bring up the glass houses parable, but some of you are making bitchy comments without having listened to his music, judging him for the name he gave his band (like there aren't a thousand bands with even stupider names) or casting aspersions about his financial/class background and how that makes him less of an artist. (Seriously, people: do you actually think a cabin in the Wisconsin wilderness is that expensive for his family to keep up? Do you think maybe he had a job -- gasp! -- and saved up for a situation just like this?)

Folks, I regret to inform you that there is a new Coldplay album out. Go grind your axes in the general direction of Mr. Gwyneth Paltry and leave this little guy alone.
posted by pxe2000 at 4:00 AM on June 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


The snark is a direct result of being fed hype. What type of music isn't even mentioned in the post. He could be playing drone rock from all the description we are given. It's marketing, an attempt to humanize the music by framing it as a human interest story, with the music being just an incidental artifact. Fuck that. Fuck the cult of personality that seems to arise out the new web, where a song's context is prepackaged for maximum appeal to demographics.

His class and financial don't make him any less of an artist, but they don't make him any more of one. There are a million people just like him, who have taken their pain, and used it as a catalyst to make music.
posted by zabuni at 4:36 AM on June 21, 2008 [3 favorites]



His loss (and the breakup with a girlfriend a few years earlier) was our gain

Still wondering how we benefited from this break-up. Perhaps she's promiscuous?
posted by grounded at 6:02 AM on June 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


zabuni: To be fair, the FPP was not great for the reasons you describe. (If I wasn't familiar with his music, I would have assumed that he was a confessional folk artist based on the circumstances under which the album was made.) That said, how is the hype for Bon Iver any different than a thousand other artists out there who have released albums? Every single artist who has gained success via the internet has had some sort of...either human interest story or larger context/persona for their work, all ready for consumption.

If you can look past the hype -- the accusations of trustafarianism, the (alleged) silly name (is it really that much worse than My Morning Jacket?) -- you'll see that Justin Vernon is just a dude with a guitar who writes achingly pretty songs. His modest stage presence and demeanor suggest to me that (a) he's aware of the fact that he's not reinventing the wheel, and (b) he knows how lucky he is that he has a wider-than-usual audience for the kind of music he makes.

Like I said, I saw him open for an artist whose work I out-and-out love. When I walked into that hall, I had no idea who this "Bon Iver" guy was -- didn't know the story behind the making of the album, wasn't hyped to death. And I was genuinely moved by his songs, enough to buy his album and recommend him to my friends. It bums me out that Mefites are looking down their noses at him, but it goes along with the cliche around here: Your Favorite Band Sucks.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:17 AM on June 21, 2008


Speaking from the perspective of a shitty guitarist, this guy gives the impression that shitty guitarists can become stars too. Like movies and TV shows where the paunchy schlub gets/already has the very attractive girl.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 6:53 AM on June 21, 2008


So, pxe2000, looking over the comments in this thread, I can only assume it is my comment above that you've misinterpreted and mischaracterized (in two comments now) as "casting aspersions about his financial/class background" and "accusations of trustafarianism". It's an incorrect conclusion you've jumped to. My comment was simply an honest one from my own perspective: I said I wished I'd had the luxury of spending months in some cabin, rent free and without need of generating income, in order to focus on writing a batch of songs. That's what I would've liked, at some point, in my life, but I've never exactly had such an option. You've interpreted that to mean that I'm "accusing" this Bon Iver guy of being a rich kid or whatever, but that is flat out wrong. Whether this fellow is or isn't rich (or whatever) is of absolutely no interest or concern to me.

Furthermore, I never, ever read Pitchfork, and I'm not "looking down my nose" at Mr. Bon Iver. I am rather underwhelmed by the music I've heard posted here, but, so what, right? If this guy's music moves you, hey, fantastic. Glad you've found something you enjoy. Just try not to put words into other people's mouths, okay?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:56 AM on June 21, 2008


That backstory prompted me to remember other musicians fueled by dwelling on breakups.
I googled up some Bon Iver lyrics, and imagined how they'd sound over Nine Inch Nails music. Aside from the absence of cuss words, they matched perfectly.

Which brings me to my point: Though I'm not a fan personally, self-indulgent angsty music has its place and that's A-O-K. I just urge the listening public to not deem an artist more credible simply because they eschewed leather + eyeliner, opting for flannel + beards.

Whiny is whiny, be it gruff or too shiny.
posted by yorick at 6:58 AM on June 21, 2008


pxe2000, this isn't the first time you and I have disagreed about music but I gotta admit I never really understand why you care so much what other people think about stuff you like. I heard the Bon Iver album about 18 months ago and it bored me to tears. I still have a promo of it and listened to it again last night and some this morning and I still think it's substandard playing, writing, and most definitely singing. The linked track is so overwrought it's laughable!

Yeah, MMJ is a terrible name for a band--believe me, plenty of people made fun of it when they put out Tennessee Fire. But it's really hard to hate them when you hear James' voice (though of course there are those who do). I love the band's first three releases and holy crap are they great to see in small venues but I don't give a shit if my friends and acquaintances think they're poo. And I don't put press releases for them on MeFi. That's not what MetaFilter is for. I mean, seriously, this FPP blows. It's a SLYT post with a bunch of padding to help Justin sell more records.

And, hate to break it to you, but calling people who have tastes different from your own Pitchfork-reading whatevers doesn't help your case. To start with, PF loves Bon Iver and did its part in spreading the log cabin bullshit.
posted by dobbs at 7:03 AM on June 21, 2008


it goes along with the cliche around here: Your Favorite Band Sucks.

It's not just a cliche, it's a proud tradition.
posted by AV at 7:40 AM on June 21, 2008


I'm sure this guy went through a lot of pain which inspired this album, but the description of this is so generic yet grave that it sounds like satire. With the exception of the part about living in a cabin, isn't this every singer-songwriter's story? Pain is what inspires many, if not most, musicians to do what they do. I'd never heard of Bon Iver before, and hearing him now I don't like his voice, though his style of music is fine. I can't stand this kind of hype, though.
posted by wondermouse at 7:41 AM on June 21, 2008


Only thing more annoying than the "chick with a guitar" genre is the "falsetto dude with a guitar" genre. Some can pull them off, but it's a rare, rare few.

Why does every album have to have a damn origin story nowadays? "Bob fell out of a tree and went to India for six months and had his ear chopped off and made Still Falling just with one ear."

A Million Little Pieces, Unplugged. Albums as memoir.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:17 AM on June 21, 2008


AAAAHHH APPLES AGGRRGGGHH

That's the funniest thing I've seen all week.
posted by sixswitch at 8:18 AM on June 21, 2008


My comment was simply an honest one from my own perspective: I said I wished I'd had the luxury of spending months in some cabin, rent free and without need of generating income, in order to focus on writing a batch of songs. [snip] You've interpreted that to mean that I'm "accusing" this Bon Iver guy of being a rich kid or whatever, but that is flat out wrong.
I apologize for misconstruing your comment. There have been several other accusations about Justin being a trust-fund kid that have rubbed me the wrong way -- like this one (though it's not the best example of said accusations/reasons for tossing him off).

Hey Dobbs? I'm glad to see that you remember my opinions. Much of your post would be better suited to a PM, though. Just sayin', is all. As far as my taking this too personally, I've been following Bon Iver's career trajectory since last winter, and...well, seeing someone who isn't particularly well-known become the target of the snark in this thread seemed as though it was a few steps removed from reading about someone I went to high school with on the blue, in mildly mean-spirited terms. Being a fairly small-time artist doesn't shield one from criticism, but the way a lot of people here are talking about him as though he was Coldplay.

Almost every artist that has come out lately has had some sort of human-interest story behind them. The only difference between Bon Iver and most of the other artists that have risen to his level of fame is that someone had the audacity to make a crappy FPP about him.
posted by pxe2000 at 8:28 AM on June 21, 2008


Oh, and a note about the PF remark:

I only reference PF because the above-it-all attitude and snark that most of the posters in this thread have used to make sport of Bon Iver reminds me of the holier-than-thou tone PF employs to describe much of what doesn't meet their rareified standards. Due to that site's crush on Bon Iver, perhaps that was a badly-chosen metaphor.
posted by pxe2000 at 8:37 AM on June 21, 2008


"Whiny is whiny, be it gruff or too shiny."

is my new favorite one line poem...
posted by HuronBob at 8:50 AM on June 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


great thread, guys! seriously. all the laughs without even having to listen to some crappy music.
posted by snofoam at 9:16 AM on June 21, 2008


I'm laughing so hard I can't use the mouse to click "favorite." That was 100% pure awesome!

Amen. When I read that I happened to have a mouthful of coffee, and I came this close to making a reality of the tired cliche about spewing coffee over one's monitor. Fortunately, severe self-control saved the day.

I have not listened to poor Justin/Bon's music, nor do I intend to, but I'm very glad this post was made, because the thread is a winner.
posted by languagehat at 11:03 AM on June 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


jesus christ...

what
the
fuck
metafilter?

It's a broken hearted guy with a guitar who went off in the woods to sulk for a few months and then released an album. This isn't a unique situation. Why all the frothing at the mouth? Jealous much? Grow up.
posted by nevercalm at 12:08 PM on June 21, 2008


Also, DeYarmond Edison? Very nice. Ignoring the snark (which is hard, because "grinnin' a bar to death and drinking warm whiskey through a rattlesnake" is awesome), StopMakingSense, good on ya.
posted by nevercalm at 12:12 PM on June 21, 2008


Whatever happened to the origin story: "A bunch of dudes sat around a recording studio smoking pot and noodling around on instruments and made a record and now are out promoting the damn thing"?

Panic at the Disco?
posted by FunkyHelix at 12:12 PM on June 21, 2008


"The closing track 'Re: Stacks' is the last dot of light before everything goes black, and when it quietly comes to a close, it's like death."

Now that's a review.
posted by punishinglemur at 1:08 PM on June 21, 2008


Do any of you remember the olden days when we were left to determine the context of songs all by our own selves? I don't care to be gently hand-held into liking something by a promo fluff piece, either. I'd rather have an inscrutable Dylan rambling arcanely and eschewing interviews, leaving me to understand, or not, as I see fit.

This would be like if Rothko made little 12" paintings, but there was three feet of explanation as to the meaning of each little one hogging space on the museum wall.

And I'm with Flapjax on at least one point -- whenever a band broke up, I formed or joined another one, and whenever a relationship ended, I just bore the pain, went to work, and looked towards the next.

Navelgazing has become such a popular pastime that we're now willing to watch each other gaze at our navels -- when we have the time to look up from our own, that is. (Listened to 2/3's of Skinny Love before I got kinda bored -- didn't hate it, didn't love it.)
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:58 PM on June 21, 2008


nevercalm, I'm happy for you to enjoy that track.

For anyone who is considering checking it out, by the sound of it it's a group of frat boys or American footballers shouting and failing to harmonise over a bad impression of bluegrass/skiffle.

Still, if it made someone happy perhaps I should be less annoyed about the 3:54 I can't have back.
posted by imperium at 2:04 PM on June 21, 2008


Yeah, I guess here's the thing. The ugly secret of music is there are some people who are frikkin amazing, some people who are really jaw-droppingly bad, but most musicians float in the middle. It's really luck and happenstance and a knack for the local zeitgeist that determines whether one musician succeeds or one fails (I'm guessing that Norah Jones would have fallen flat if she'd emerged just a few years earlier).

So this guy is great. Cool. So are about 100k other musicians out there, all of whom have been in bands that later broke up; most of them, if they are lucky, have one breakup under their belt rather than several.

I personally know two or three artists as good or better than this guy who never managed to figure out how to position themselves. I'm really glad that this musician is being successful, because it's nice when someone is able to make a living doing what they enjoy. But I wish it were my friend instead. I guess that's why I'm a bit dismissive of this guy and his my my mies.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:31 PM on June 21, 2008


Crap FPP. Crap dime-a-dozen music. Motherfuck a Pitchfork.

np: the smell of one hand clapping
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:09 PM on June 21, 2008


Bon Iver is great. I don't care for any band's "story" and I think it has no effect of the quality of the music. The music should stand on its own and For Emma does easily. When I saw Bon Iver last fall, he had the room transfixed.
posted by yeti at 6:57 AM on June 23, 2008


Fuck. Late to the thread and I might have been able to contribute something. Oh well.

I just want to say that this thread captures the worst of Metafilter and it means I will never, ever share anything that really moves me, because I don't think I could take it if people piled on the snark and casually dismissed what I love as crap without a second thought.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:57 AM on June 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


I just want to say that this thread captures the worst of Metafilter and it means I will never, ever share anything that really moves me, because I don't think I could take it if people piled on the snark and casually dismissed what I love as crap without a second thought.

I've done it and survived. It can be a personally embiggening experience, if handled properly.

BTW, I gave it a second thought before I piled on. I seriously thought the song was a tad boring, and that the article about his journey to the woods was hyperbole.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:02 AM on June 23, 2008


Let me qualify what I said. I read back over the thread and most of it is just reaction against a poorly framed post and I really can't complain about that, though it does bring me down to see an artist I like get mocked. There were really only two comments that made me angry and get all "worst of Metafilter"-y.

Crap FPP. Crap dime-a-dozen music. Motherfuck a Pitchfork.
np: the smell of one hand clapping
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:09 PM on June 21 [+] [!]

--

For anyone who is considering checking it out, by the sound of it it's a group of frat boys or American footballers shouting and failing to harmonise over a bad impression of bluegrass/skiffle.
posted by imperium at 2:04 PM on June 21 [+] [!]


That makes me really sad and I don't really understand the point of being so dismissive. I mean, I myself didn't really get the music when I first listened to the recording. But like yeti, I found the live show to be absolutely captivating - the entire bar (150 people) was dead quiet and hanging on every note. I thought the musicianship of the band was superb. It was a very moving show - one of very few I have ever seen. Joesph Gurl and imperium -- maybe I need to grow a thicker skin... but I wish you weren't so hostile. It's wearying.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:00 PM on June 23, 2008


LEAVE BON ALONE!!!
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 8:56 PM on June 25, 2008


LAISSEZ LES BON TEMPS ROULE!!!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:27 AM on June 26, 2008


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