« Bon Iver » (Jagjaguwar/4AD)
Pure intoxicating weightlessness from American trio Bon Iver, using strings, brass and crystalline guitars as the perfect setting for the dreamy vocals of Justin Vernon.
Bon Iver is the group led by American singer-songwriter Justin Vernon, ably assisted by Mike Noyce and Sean Carey. The name comes from the French expression “Bon hiver” (“Have a good winter”).
Justin Vernon wrote the music that launched Bon Iver during a three-month retreat in a cabin in north Wisconsin. The result was the self-produced album For Emma, Forever Ago (2007). Vernon put the album up for people to hear on Virb.com, where indie label Jagjaguwar noticed it and picked it up for 2008.
The influential online musical magazine Pitchfork reviewed For Emma, Forever Ago, giving it 8.1 out of 10, and in October 2008 Bon Iver played a sold-out concert at La Maroquinerie in Paris. Vernon also used the Bon Iver moniker when he designed a T-shirt for the charitable Yellow Bird Project to raise funds for Interval House, a women’s shelter.
An EP, Blood Bank, came out at the end of 2008, and a further Bon Iver track appeared on the AIDS benefit compilation Dark Was the Night. “Roslyn”, a collaboration with St. Vincent, featured on the original soundtrack for the film Twilight: New Moon.
The self-titled follow-up album has also met with widespread acclaim from critics and public alike, leading the mayor of the town of Milwaukee to declare 22 July 2011 Bon Iver Day. According to the official proclamation, the group’s music “embraces Justin Vernon’s Wisconsin heritage, as he has become an international ambassador for both Milwaukee and Wisconsin”. The album also includes contributions from sax player Colin Stetson (Arcade Fire) and guitarist Greg Leisz (Wilco).
On 17 August 2011, singer James Blake used Twitter to announce a forthcoming collaboration with Bon Iver. The song “Fall Creek Boys Choir” was duly posted on Blake’s YouTube channel on 24 August, becoming available for download 5 days later. The two had met at the SXSW (“South by Southwest”) festival and gone into the studio to put down several tracks. A press release also appeared, fleshing out the story of this encounter with a few more details: “Over the past year James has cited Justin as a key influence and it was via a chance meeting at this year’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas that the seed was sown for a future collaboration.” The resultant track, we learn, was “formed in the spring over email”.