Off Beat Music Guide

Album Review: Bon Iver, Bon Iver May 27, 2011

Filed under: Album Review,Music,Music News,New Release,Uncategorized — bethstephenson84 @ 12:13 pm
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Let’s get it out of the way, apart from Justin Vernon’s trademark falsetto, Bon Iver, Bon Iver is nothing like For Emma, Forever Ago. And in my opinion it didn’t need to be. Justin Vernon’s pining and isolation resulted in a full and complete album. He put it all on the table and left little room for a Part 2.

So much of what I love about that album is the story of its creation; the months of isolation in the woods writing songs about lost love and heartbreak, never expecting anyone to hear them. We did, of course, hear them and we fell in love with them. He captured lightening in a bottle. For Emma was absolutely perfect for the collectively heartbroken world in 2008, but now it’s time to move on.

And here we are a couple of years later, ready to move on. And it feels as though the Bon Iver boys are right there with us, writing our soundtrack on Bon Iver, Bon Iver.

Over the past 3 years, Vernon has given us hints about the direction he would take with this album. The Blood Bank EP eased us into a bolder sounding Bon Iver and the title track easily became my favorite song of 2009.

Where For Emma is stark and minimal, Bon Iver, Bon Iver is intricate and lavish. Vernon mixes synthesizers with pedal guitars and creates sounds that Vernon himself described as “Civil War-sounding heavy metal.” It’s odd for sure, but then Vernon has never been an easy read. I remember reading once that Vernon often has no idea what his songs are about; it’s as if the words just come through him and he is little more than a scribe. Way to rub it in, Vernon. We get it, you are a genius.

Much like For Emma, this album is full of challenging and breathtaking lyrics. It reads much more like poetry than music, and much like poetry, I think the meaning is meant to be personal. The listener is supposed to take ownership.

I’ve had the album for couple of days now, and I can say without any hesitancy that I like it. My favorites so far are “Perth,” “Minnesota, WI” and “Calgary.” I anticipate, much like my experience with For Emma, that my favorites will change pretty regularly though. I am sad to say that “Beth/Rest” is currently my least favorite song on the album, despite multiple attempts to LOVE it. Maybe that will change when I hear it live.

This album is all about journeys and destinations. Many of the song titles are places, both real and imaginary, and even the album’s title is a destination. Destination doesn’t necessarily have to mean the end though. I like to think Bon Iver, Bon Iver is just a stopping point on this band’s journey and that we’ve got many more gorgeous miles ahead of us.

Track list:

1. Perth
2. Minnesota, WI
3. Holocene
4. Towers
5. Michicant
6. Hinnom, TX
7. Wash.
8. Calgary
9. Lisbon, OH
10. Beth/Rest



Concert Review: Fleet Foxes May 16, 2011

Filed under: Concerting,Music — bethstephenson84 @ 9:12 pm
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Where: The Tabernacle- Atlanta, GA

When: May 14, 2011

This was the first concert I’ve been to where the band received a standing ovation before playing a single note—and that was the first of six (!) standing ovations that would be given to them over the course of the night. I wanted to start by telling you this so you won’t think I am over-glorifying this show or this band. They deserved the standing ovation before the show, during the show and after. They were stunning, and there are a couple thousand people who can testify to that.

This 6 member, Portland-based band is led by singer Robin Pecknold, and their sound is somewhere between the Beach Boys and Simon and Garfunkle.  That will seem ridiculous until you’ve heard them. They have released 2 LPs: Fleet Foxes (2008) and Helplessness Blues (2011) and their sound is a careful construction of contrasting starkness and bold energy. Harmonies and reverberation could be the seventh and eighth members of this band because they are utilized in nearly every song.  And they are powerful tools.

Here is an intro video to Fleet Foxes for those unfamiliar with the group. I’m including it on here because a) it’s one of my favorite videos of all time, ever b) it’s my favorite of their songs and c) it perfectly showcases their use of harmonies and reverberation in shaping their sound.

Back to the show. I was nervous about hearing the band live because I so closely associate their music with the North Carolina landscape. I was afraid it would feel gimmicky having this pastoral band play on a big stage in the 9th largest city in the US. Thinking back now, I don’t know what I was worried about because the next best thing to hearing them in the Carolina Mountains is hearing them in a cathedral-turned-music hall.  And The Tabernacle did not disappoint. It accommodated the band’s vocals with nearly perfect acoustics. And leaving the former church’s giant pipe organ as the backdrop was a stroke of genius.

The band played for nearly two hours and covered the majority of both of their albums. I may or may not have shed a couple of tears during “Blue Ridge Mountains”,“ The Shrine/An Argument”, and “Helplessness Blues.” Hearing their perfectly formed harmonies live was a mighty powerful experience. And unfortunately you will have to take my word for it, because the sound quality of the videos really doesn’t do the band justice.

This was one of those shows where I made a conscious effort to soak up every moment. From the way the crowd poured out praises, to the way the harmonies on “White Winter Hymnal” gave me chill bumps, I wanted to remember it all.

Here’s how it went down:

  1. The Cascade/Grown Ocean
  2. Drops in the River
  3. Battery Kinzie
  4. Bedouin Dress
  5. Sim Sala Bim
  6. Mykonos
  7. Your Protector
  8. Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
  9. White Winter Hymnal/ Ragged Wood
  10. Lorelai
  11. Montezuma/He Doesn’t Know Why
  12. The Shrine/ An Argument/ Blue Spotted Tail
  13. Blue Ridge Mountains
    14. Oliver James
    15. Helplessness Blues

I was able to video the majority of the show. The only songs I missed were “Your Protector,” “Drops in the River” and “Mykonos”. To see all the videos from the show including three songs from opening act The Cave Singers, check out my YouTube page at:               

White Winter Hymnal/Ragged Wood Medley

Sim Sala Bim

The Cascades/Grown Ocean