07 Jul 2011


Yesterday Bon Iver’s second LP arrived, after I pre-ordered back in May. Apart from previewing a couple of tracks on The Hype Machine I’d avoided the album until I could sit and listen to it in its entirety on vinyl, which I did three times last night, and then four times on digital today. After the misfire of the Volcano Choir album I was worried that For Emma, Forever Ago, which is one of my favourite albums, was just Justin Vernon’s once-off catharsis following an especially difficult relationship breakup, but no, Bon Iver is an amazing album of incredible beauty. It feels like the Sistine Chapel ceiling of albums, although maybe that’s due to its artwork and the Sistine Chapel is kind of crowded and noisy, so it’s more like standing before Jacques-Louis David’s “The Coronation of Napoleon”.

I’ve been thinking lately about connections, like when you read a book or hear an album and it feels connected to everything that lead you there. Perhaps this is just a biproduct of being sufficiently cultured/educated, such that whenever you read or watch or hear anything that the spiderweb of connection always really there is now more visible. But I think it’s more. Like the way European art reacted to the Enlightenment prior to the rise of fascism.

I’ve persisted with this idea that 2010 signalled the end of a dark era, with artwork that reflect this, like Bret Easton Ellis’ Imperial Bedrooms, The National’s High Violet, Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom — all with the climactic culmination of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. So naturally 2011 needs works like TV On The Radio’s Nine Types of Light and Bon Iver to bring back the light.

Bon Iver may just be Vernon saying he’s over Emma and moving on, but he’s also looking forward. It’s the album of buying an old Pontiac and heading west, an album of looking out the dust-yellow windows of the train that takes you to life’s next chapter, it’s the final scenes of Malick’s The New World, it’s standing outside an apartment building in the rain and realising that you can go home and things will be better tomorrow.