The Weekly Recommendation: Bon Iver

by Sara Motlik

Quick Info:

  • Genre – Indie Folk
  • Country of Origin – USA
  • Year Founded – 2007
  • Members – Justin Vernon, Sean Carey, Matthew McCaughan, Michael Lewis, Andrew Fitzpatrick
  • Albums and EPs – For Emma, Forever Ago (2007); Blood Bank (2009); Bon Iver, Bon Iver (2011); 22, A Million (2016)

Recommended Songs:

  • Holocene
  • For Emma
  • Flume
  • 33 “GOD”
  • Blood Bank

Musical Feeling – Why Bon Iver?

If I could capture Bon Iver’s music as an image, it would probably be “walking through a misty field by the forest in the early autumn wearing a sweater and Timberland boots, slightly lumberjack and wintery feel”. Usually, the Summer hits that are played on the radio and top Spotify charts are based on heavy beats, while most of Bon Iver’s music (especially older songs) is usually stripped of consistent drumming as well as studio-added effects. It is mostly acoustic and somehow fits with the sight of falling leaves and fading sunrays, as well as cold temperatures and the outdoors. Apparently the band had a similar opinion, judging by the music video to “Holocene”, in which a little boy treks through nature with icy, winter surroundings and an overcast sky. It carries a certain charm that makes it somehow more suited for listening to on evenings and colder days.

The album cover for Bon Iver's 22, A Million
The album cover for Bon Iver’s 22, A Million

“Tight vocal harmonies, I think they’re beautiful. Almost a choir sound in the indie genre. Living in Poland, everything is dance music all the time, and I like that Bon Iver focuses less on the melodies, but more on the harmonies. They pay a lot of attention to harmonies.”

-Ms. Bechdoldt

All there is to add to the comments from my side is that Bon Iver’s lyrics, although often complex and weird-sounding, make you understand them and possibly even relate, even if not every word’s meaning is clear. Lastly, they offer a variety of different tracks and sounds, but a certain ambiance connects them, and together with Justin Vernon’s voice, to me, their music is unmistakable.

Music as Catharsis – The Backstory

Music heals the soul – this particularly applies to Bon Iver’s founder and frontman, Justin Vernon. In his thirties, in the early 2000’s, he suffered from mononucleosis hepatitis, an infection that resulted in fever, enlarged lymph nodes and in some cases extreme fatigue, which could last up to several months, even after the end of the actual illness. During this time, Vernon retired to his father’s cabin in Wisconsin to recover there. The specific name of the band, whose pronunciation has often been americanised, came from the French term “Bon Hiver” meaning “good winter”. Vernon decided to alter the spelling, since it reminded him too much of “liver”, which was one of the organs that was affected by his prior illness, and he associated it with his infection. During the time at his father’s cabin, his main goal was to recuperate and regain strength, but in his free time he ended up singing and writing lyrics, which led to the creation of his first studio album with the group entitled “For Emma, Forever Ago”.

On top of all of that, the band is nominated for 2 Grammy awards and has made a comeback this year with their album “22, a Million”, so they might be worth a try.

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