Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bon Iver - Bon Iver

Release Date: June 21, 2011 
Label: Jagjaguwar

It's been a few weeks since this was released, and I've given it a solid three or four listens.  As such, I feel like I have had ample time to digest it.  Seeing as it is one of the most hyped albums of the year so far (at least in certain circles), I figured I'd give it the business.

A decade or so ago, a musical movement started gaining steam.  It wasn't as much a genre, as it was an idea.  This movement was known as post-rock, and was described as music that is not rock music, but uses rock instruments.  A few of these bands were Sigur Ros, Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Kayo Dot (more post-metal), Explosions in the Sky, et al.  To me, this type of music is characterized by a general lack of any coherent structure, atmospheric sounds, and the most unappealing melodies imaginable.  I have been known to enjoy some pretty challenging music (even the most brazen King Crimson, Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer, etc.), but I have never been able to find post-rock enjoyable.

Bon Iver is, to my knowledge, not considered post-rock, but the reason I bring this up is that Bon Iver seems to have some of the above qualities.  It is heavy on ambience, the songs are atypically structured, and the melodies are completely forgettable.

This is an album that has me torn between passive respect and brooding disdain.  On the one hand, I admire bands that try to push boundaries, and do things that aren't typically done.  I generally enjoy music that takes a lot of work to become acclimated to.  But at the same time, I find this album a chore to listen to.  It's not just, "Whatever, at least it's good background music."  It's actually difficult for me to listen to this.  I hate the way the keyboards sound.  I hate the flagrant overuse of the falsetto voice.  Even more, I hate the cringe-worthy passages with two falsettos harmonizing.  And after four listens, there is not a single melody that I remember.

In short, this album may be admirable in some respects, but it is not good.

That's not to say there aren't great songs.  "Towers," for example, shines.  More often, though–and this is another one of those post-rock qualities–there are simply good passages strewn about a field of tedium.

Inevitably this album will be considered by indie music journals and, by extension, hipsters everywhere to be one of the best of the year.  And it will certainly be more deserving than that new Fleet Foxes album.  But there are already at least a dozen other albums this year that I'd rather listen to.


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