In 2012, Twitter exploded when a certain Bonnie Bear seemed to win the Grammy award for Best Alternative Music Album out of the blue. Nevertheless, there was no Bonnie Bear, only Bon Iver, who had been known in the indiescene for some time, and was all of a sudden exposed to the mainstream. We present you: Bon Iver, before you can finish your cup of coffee.
I. For Emma, Forever Ago
It all starts in 2006, when Justin Vernon decides to move to his father’s cabin in the state of Wisconsin in America. Justin watches an old tv-series, when he hears the words “Bon hiver” or “good winter” in french. Vernon didn’t mean to make a record, but it emerged, as he had taken some musical equipment to the cabin, and he had lived through a very rough year. All by himself, Vernon records his debut album, in the idea of sending demo’s to record labels.
On of these demo’s is ‘Creature Fear’, a very atmospheric song, showing the emptiness of nature, surrounding the cabin.
II. Skinny Love
But these demo’s draw a lot of attention, including Pitchfork’s, and soon the record is picked up by record label jagjaguwar, which makes the album accessible all over the world. The album still features the songs that were actually meant to be demo’s, and bathes in an atmosphere of loneliness. It also features the song which soon becomes and indie-hit. It recently regained attention, due to a cover by Birdy, but the original is by far a way better song.
III. Bon Iver, Bon Iver
After a debutalbum loved by critics, a lot of artists find it difficult to meet expectations. Vernon and his brother decided to buy an old veterinarian clinic, and changed it into a recording studio. Vernon also decided to be joined by other artists, like Colin Stetson, the sax player that’s also featured on Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible, The Suburbs and Reflektor. And these collaborations resulted in the Grammy Award winning album, which for example features this song, which features a heavy eighties sound.
Bon Iver actually meantthe beginning of some very productive collaborations between Vernon and other artists. He worked with Poliça, shows up in a few songs on Anais Mitchell’s album Hadestown, and his project Volcano Choir, a band he formed together with Collections of Colonies of Bees, has already released two records, of which Repave, released in 2013, was again positively reviewed by most critics. But the most interesting collaboration up till now has probably been that between Bon Iver and James Blake. Together they wrote the song ‘I Need A Forest Fire’, an incredible song that combines the typical Bon Iver atmosphere with James Blake’s cool electronic vibes.
V. 22, A Million
In 2016, Vernon’s long-awaited third album was finally released. The title is a good apetizer on what to expect from the songtitles, as they all are written in quite a complex way, but of course the titles aren’t the things that count, it’s the songs. And here we see how the collaboration with James Blake has influenced Bon Iver. The sound becomes more electronic, without loosing it’s warm character, but maintains at the same time the typical vocoders and falsetto we know so well from the previous records. Bon Iver, music that will warm your heart, at most when you feel very alone.