“What I’m listening to” is a weekly series of music that reigns at the top of my personal playlist. Music that I think is cool and deserves a mention and some extra attention.
This week: Bon Iver.
A long-time inspiration of mine, this truly gifted songwriter, arranger, producer, singer and musician, is really something special. Obviously, as with all W.I.L.T. posts, it’s personal and subjective, but I really feel this guy is one of the best singer-songwriters of all time.
I remember being instantly captivated by his sound when reading a Facebook post of my buddy Andrew saying something like “oh this is so beautiful,” including a link to the track Towers (first video below). It was. Is. So much so that I don’t quite have the words to describe it.
The track got me instantly hooked the very first time I heard it, which is kinda rare.
However, Bon Iver (stage name, the guy is actually named Justin Vernon) somehow manages to combine deeper, complex levels of beauty in music -those that are usually hidden on a first spin and only become clear after a couple of listens- with this “love it on a first spin” quality. Those usually don’t usually go hand-in-hand.
It was only after falling in love with the overall sound (really a golden combination of stellar songwriting skills, beautiful arrangements and smooth-as-silk vocals) and buying the album that “Towers” is on, that I discovered that the mega-hit “Skinny Love” as performed by Birdy, was actually written by his hand too.
Checking out this original version (sorry Birdy: WAY cooler than your cover) made it clear that this guy had another side to him besides the wonderfully arranged, but quite “full” production that made the sound of the double self-titled album (“Bon Iver, Bon Iver”) that I’d been playing the life out of.
On “For Emma, Forever Ago,” his debut album, Bon Iver proves even more to be a genuine singer-songwriter, needing nothing more than a quite crappy recorded guitar-bed and some improvised additions like smakking pots and pans, scraping the guitar strings to simulate a string sound and more in-house sound additions to support his warm voice (all recorded during a glorified vacation brake in a cabin), to captivate the listener.
This is where I discovered what might just be my favorite track of all time “re: stacks,” which I can only write about that every time I listen to it, it gets better. Nothing clarifies better than just to listen to this one (second video). And then again. And again. And again.
I will leave you to it.
(if you’re impatient, the actual song starts at 1:34).