Oh dear lord. I love Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. If there was a man crush that I could act upon there is a really good chance that I would be out in the middle of the wilderness having a same-sex marriage whilst chopping wood for the fire and whittling a canoe to enjoy the sunset while Justin writes a falsetto opera about his tweed jackets. Believe you me, I am not the only person who thinks about this. Seriously. And don’t worry, my ladyfriend knows my love of Bon Iver so this won’t come as a shock to her either.
The reason I have such an admiration for Bon Iver is because his music, like Nathaniel Rateliff’s, touched me in such an intimate and emotional way. He was like the Weezer to my College years. All the pain and angst and growth that comes with college was summed up on his album For Emma, Forever Ago. My heart was broken many times in college. I felt sad and alone in a town that I didn’t really feel comfortable in. I wanted to run away with my thoughts in the mountain wilderness but constantly wondered if anyone would care about me. Justin Vernon was able to give me the background music to my life as a movie. It was sad, it was bittersweet, it was beautiful. What really sealed the deal for me as they say was his solo album Hazeltons. It was one of those albums that just makes you cry and cry and cry. The pain in his heart and in his soul just reverberates and makes you feel alive in a way that only sadness can. I can’t help but pull out one of his many music project’s albums and just look outside solemnly when the weather is gloomy.
Justin Vernon has been a huge impact on my life for the last 6 or 7 years. Not only has his personal music been great, but I have been absolutely blown away by his artistic talent. The man is connected to multiple music projects and is constantly being creative. It just blows me away the amount of work he does. Everything from his solo recordings to his collaborations like Volcano Choir and The Shouting Matches, Mr. Vernon is the James Franco of the indie-folk music world. Not only that but no two projects ever sound the same. He is constantly maintaining this level of fresh that I can’t explain.
His latest collaboration is something almost from left field for his musical aesthetic of Sad-Folk. Part blues, part American rock, all soul, Justin’s new band The Shouting Matches is a throwback to classic American sound. On their debut album, Grown Ass Man, Justin Vernon and his hometown compatriots present a whimsical and happy go lucky album that strikes me as an album made for fun with friends. There is no sadness or pain on this album just a lot of guitar solos and hoarse voices from too much whiskey and cigarettes during the recording. My favorite song on the album, Three Dollar Bill, uses harmonicas, synths, and heavy bass lines. All three of which create some of my most favorite sounds in the world.
I really like when artists accept their popularity and level of fame and embrace it. Instead of trying to retread on the music that made Justin Vernon popular, sad-core, Mr. Vernon has been branching out trying out all types of genres and constantly refining his skills as a musician and growing his aesthetic.He is not too afraid to branch out and be different. To me that shows respect to the music. He doesn’t want to demean its importance and impact by creating watered down reproductions of something amazing. For Emma, Forever Ago is one of those albums that will change your life and will maintain heavy rotation for years to come.
Not only does he make music that will impact your life he also makes music that is constantly growing and evolving. For example, the Bon Iver song Woods was recorded first as an auto-tuned single that really was just completely from out of left field. Off of the Blood Bank EP, it was a weird melancholy pop song that was more conceptual than a real song. That was until when Justin added the Volcano Choir echoes and multiple operatic voices that the song evolved into this beautiful song that perfectly encapsulates the emotions and feelings of winter. Add to that, Kanye West sampled the song on his song Lost in the World and created a whole entirely different perspective to the song. Being the huge audiophile that I am, it just sends a huge smile to my face. His music never stops growing and evolving and The Shouting Matches is a great step in his musical evolution.
A great listen both over speakers and in headphones, this album is just great fun to have at a barbecue or with a beer.
NPR is streaming the album Grownass Man this week and the album comes out via Middle West on Tuesday. check it out here