Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Take It From Me -- Track #17 -- Bon Iver

“Woods” by Bon Iver
from Blood Bank
January 2009

For a little while last year, Bon Iver was one of those bands where you think you’ve discovered something really esoteric & you think it’s going to be like your own special thing.

& then suddenly you find that everybody’s getting into “your” new band, & there’s a moment of readjustment there where you have to decide if you’re still going to be that into a band that’s that ubiquitous.

So, everybody knows the story now, how Monsieur Bon Iver (Justin Vernon) got his heart all broken & he went off to a cabin in the woods of Wisconsin (hello?) all by himself & didn’t come back until he’d recorded For Emma, Forever Ago. The album is really quite beautiful, but it was just everywhere for a while there & I finally had to take a little break from it. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

& that’s a commercially dangerous place for an artist to be, right? I imagine it’s all terrific & exciting to be this year’s Big New Thing. But from there, you can go where exactly? Because you do NOT want to be reduced to, you know, Last Year’s Big Thing. So, some strategic thinking might need to enter into the artistic decision-making. Not to be overly mercenary about it, but music undeniably is --among many other things, duh-- a commodity in the marketplace.

So anyway, Blood Bank was a four-song EP that Justin put out early this year, pointing in a couple different directions & maybe just trying to figure out where exactly he wants to go next. Because it’s not exactly obvious how to follow up on something so unique (& uniquely personal) as that 1st album.

For now, I think he punted. What is, functionally, this year’s Bon Iver album is, nominally, a side project: Unmap, by Volcano Choir. Which, when you listen to it, really actually is the new Bon Iver. It’s a shrewd move commercially, and it’s a perfectly satisfying move artistically, so win-win. If my 2010 year-end compilation ends up including selections from 2009, something from Volcano Choir is likely to be one of them. It's some good shit.

But anyway, here we have a current-year selection from the EP. “Woods” consists of nothing other than voice, processed through that god damn Auto-Tune thingie. btw, there actually is another version of this song on the Volcano Choir album. There, it’s called “Still,” and it’s a much fuller arrangement.

Here in this version, a single lyric repeats, & the harmonies evolve. & that’s pretty much all there is to it. I guess it’s really just a novelty track, but I still find it oddly compelling.

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