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Bon Iver: The Man with the Impressive Falsetto

A personal reflection on the music of Bon Iver

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It is the most exciting thing in the world when one of your favorite artists releases new music. It is also a great excuse to look back through all your favorite tracks and reminisce what made you fall in love with them in the first place. It all started when Justin Vernon decided most aspects in his life were turning to shit and he needed to escape. He packed up some basic belongings and recording equipment and set to his father’s cabin in the woods for three months. Following this is a great example of why everything happens for a reason. Because of these troubling turn of events for Vernon, For Emma, Forever Ago (2007) was created, and the music world was brought a completely new genre, Bon Iver. The authenticity of this artist’s music shows that he has created an entirely new genre for himself. There is nothing exactly like him, no two songs follow the same strict path, yet every song stays unapologetically him.

For Emma, Forever Ago is one of the best albums of recent time. I have no evidence supporting this claim, except for the fact that it is my opinion so it must be true.

You can feel the emotion poured into every single word, every single strum, every single beat. Everything on that album is there for a reason and there to make you feel something. It is probably his simplest of music, but it clearly proves that less is more. A chorus of Vernon’s voice fills your ears, and all your emotions come running to the front. Besides the point of what we feel as listeners, it is Vernon’s emotions that are most important in this album and it is an incredible privilege to share what he has produced.

Following from the impressive first album, Bon Iver retained the standard just as high with his second release. The self-titled album delivers a mesmerizing performance, keeping the same tone as the first album, an echoing voice, and emotion-filled lyrics, but with excelled mysticism. I believe this album set us up for what was to come down the line; his lauded 22, A Million (2016), we just didn’t know it yet. There are hints of different electronics and different paces, which make perfect sense after hearing all he has produced, but at that moment, I don’t think we knew what this album really set us up for.

Blood Bank (2009) represents the scariness and nervousness of love, and this song is a prime example of feeling through music. As told to Bustle, “I think that that secret [in the chorus] is the answer to all those questions. Why is this sacred and why does this feel larger than myself and larger than what I can even put into words … I think it’s the connection that we have to each other.

We can consider Vernon as a spokesperson for/of our generation. He speaks truth and feeling and makes countless connections in his music.

To this point, Bon Iver followed a similar musical line of style. We were comfortable with what we knew Vernon could produce… and then five years later, 22, A Million came out and my initial response was… shock. It was a surprise how different this album sounded to all of his music up to this point. Yet he seemed to keep the integrity of Bon Iver intact. This was the point of evolution. This was the changing wave that proved just how amazingly creative this man could be. I really didn’t understand the album’s direction when I first listened to it. I was almost a little disappointed, but when you get past the initial feeling of ‘why didn’t he just bring out something like his first album’, and you really listen to each individual song, you grasp the enormity and talent at hand. There is more commotion, more electronic additions, processed voices, and the less than traditional structures in the songs. It is why I appreciate this album so much. It follows no rules, it has a unique sound and one song can take multiple directions within itself. Who knew electronic folk could work so well?

This trip down memory lane was prompted by the release of the two new singles “U (Man Like)” and “Hey, Ma”. Two utterly fantastic songs. A marvelous combination of early and current Bon Iver. “U (Man Like)” oozes original Bon Iver with piano and acoustics, but hints a modern twist. Whether or not it was intended, the song has a sense of optimism. It is light, but without skimping on genius.

It is impressive to release two new singles at the same time and for them to be so varied, yet work together. “Hey, Ma” leans towards the modern side of Vernon. It would fantastic to hear this song in an acoustic setting, stripped back with just Justin and his guitar. This song shows how you can use electronic additions to a song to compliment, without overdoing it.

Bon Iver has never lost the integrity of his work. The music has always stayed true, no matter what stage it was in. Vernon has created fragile yet strong music at the same time. Pitchfork stated; “This project began with a single person, but throughout the last 11 years, the identity of Bon Iver has bloomed and can only be defined by the faces in the ever growing family we are.”

Bon Iver is ever evolving, and his outlook on music and life is something worth following. Every album/release grows without losing that integrity, regardless of how diverse it is, and there is always excitement for what will be released next. He is Bon Iver, the man with the impressive falsetto.

Reviews

Void of Vision – Hyperdaze

An adventurous exploration of sound that takes the listener on a dark and powerful journey

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Void of Vision - Hyperdaze

Void Of Vision, from Melbourne Australia, have been on the fringe of breaking out in the Australian heavy scene for as long as I have been listening to music. While they have clearly got a massive audience, it has always been a question of why aren’t they bigger? It has seemed like they have struggled to find their place within the churning machine that is the Aussie scene, and in the lead up to this release it felt like, as a fan, it was make or break for them. And now, sitting here after having Hyperdaze on repeat ever since I received it, I am happy to say they have found themselves, and they are about to take off.

Hyperdaze features an adventurous exploration of sound that takes the listener on a dark and powerful journey through the entity that is Void Of Vision. Making it immediately evident that they are taking a spookier approach to their sound with this album, Hyperdaze with the ominous and atmospheric intro track, “Overture”. The slow build of this leads perfectly into the opening hits of “Year Of The Rat”. Immediately punching you in the face with a mix of growling guitars and massive drums, this headbang inducing rhythm alone is enough to set the nightmarish tone for the rest of the album. An atmosphere filled with intensity reigns through the verses, and is released only for a mesmerising sung chorus, that while is nothing ground-breaking, will stick in your head for hours.

“Babylon” opens with a maniacal fast paced intro, leading up to a dreamlike swaying verse. Heavy and hard, it maintains this high level of pressure all the way through to the demonic breakdown that makes up almost half the song. Only 2 minutes long, “Babylon” is short yet sharp. Transitioning fluently into “If Only”, this extra fast paced track implements extra usage of the added dark synth that they’ve merely flirted with thus far. The verses feel like they are throwing you back and forth, as the frantic tempo adds a maniacal edge to the track before it flows into the chorus. One issue that I personally have had with Void over the years, is their sung choruses can sometimes have jarring effects, and can seem like they interrupt and resultingly dissolve any momentum that they had previously built up in the verses. I’m happy to say that through Hyperdaze they have found the balance, and every chorus flows perfectly throughout each song that is relevant. As well as a gorgeous chorus and strong verses, “If Only” features a rare but welcome guitar solo that is a tonne of fun.

“Slave To The Name” closely follows, and is a slower but more mechanical take on the darkness. Injecting a healthy dose of panicky guitars, screeching vocals, and gut-wrenching drums straight into our veins, it leads us perfectly into the absolute fucking vibe that is “Adrenaline”. Clocking in at 1 minute and 31 seconds, this synth-heavy dance track is a wild time from start to finish. Grooving and moving their way into the electronic and house scene, Void of Visionhave now raised the question, “Could Void Sell Out Revs?” Instrumental and well out of left field, “Adrenaline” is the most eyebrow raising and most fun song off the entire album.

Lead single “Hole In Me” is the one that got everyone especially excited for this release, and for good reason. Unrelenting in tone, it was the first sign that Void were about to take the next step up. Bouncy and frantic and featuring some of the snappier snare hits you will find, “Hole In Me” remains to be one of the strongest song releases of the year. “Kerosene Dream” shows the band getting extra inventive with their guitars, and while it is chock full of fun riffs, what predominately draws the listeners ears to it will undoubtedly be the ridiculously tough blast beats, and the ridiculously tough breakdowns.

Psychedelic and cybertronic-baby vocal effects reign through the verses of “Decay” and maintain that the freshness of this sound doesn’t stale towards the end of the album. “Splinter” is opened up with the return of the, to put it in professional terms, “fucking sick” blastbeats that have popped their heads up a few times so far. They lead into ridiculously tight and fast verses and ensure that “Splinter” is one of the heaviest tracks off the whole album. The drums are the MVP of this track, and it is impossible to ignore how integral they are here. Setting the pace and taking control of the entire song, it is the added intensity of drums that gives “Splinter” the added edge it needed.

And thus we have hit the closing/title track, “Hyperdaze”, which ends the album with an added sense of dread. While all the way through it is just another fun heavy song that fits with the tone of the album, the way it ends, with intense nightmarish samples and effects, adds the haunting tone that it felt like the ending of this album deserved.

(UNFD)

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Reviews

Blink-182 – Nine

Bland-182

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blink-182 nine

It’s been an odd few years for Blink-182. The band, now crystallized with the addition of Alkaline Trio frontman Matt Skiba, seems to have fallen into the steadfast routine of existing to remain relevant by doing everything by the book. Nine, the band’s eighth studio album, and now the second without Tom DeLonge, is a natural progression from 2016’s California, but it’s so determined to remain current while checking off every single pop music trope of today that it does everything except have a personality. It’s 15 songs of music that fit anywhere in-between pop songs by Ariana Grande or Post-Malone. The album is just as easy to digest next to Lil Wayne as it is next to Maroon 5, and like all these aforementioned artists, Blink are now so safe, so saccharine, so inoffensive that it becomes such a chore to sit through this latest iteration of their music.

The problem with Nine is that so many of the songs are lacking any sense of urgency and commit the ultimate crime of just being songs that fill a tracklist. From the singles “Blame It On My Youth”, “Happy Days”, and the confounding “I Really Wish I Hated You”- they all come packing the same bouncy, pop-laden hooks, Travis Barker’s skitterish drum work, and singy-songy choruses that have dominated the charts the last decade and are bereft of a willingness or desire to grab the listener by the ears and demand attention. Songs like “Hungover You” sound like half-songs with its whispered, scatter-gun verses that explode into mid-tempo choruses. “Remember To Forget Me” is “Stay Together For The Kids” lite, except that it doesn’t have the impact of the latter’s substance while “Generational Divide” gives off “my first punk song” vibes. Skiba sounds bored half the time, which is a shame really. Even when the album does its best Alkaline Trio impersonation (“Black Rain”) it sounds like a song Skiba left off the last Trio record.

Nine finally hits a spot of excitement in “Ransom” with its uptempo percussion work and (finally) the urge to push the limits. But dumbfoundingly, the song is only a minute and a half long, and while I’m all for brevity, the song ends just as it is about to pick up some momentum. Bizarre.

So who is Nine for exactly? Well, it’s definitely not for old-school Blink fans who first discovered the band with Buddha, Cheshire Cat, or Dude Ranch. But I’m probably just a crotchety old-school listener who has been puzzled ever since 2003’s self-titled album. Nine is really for the average listener who “likes all kinds of music” and loves that so much of popular music today is inoffensive, safe, diverse, and caters to listeners of all genres and backgrounds. For you, the album is fine and will sit happily in your Spotify playlist next to whatever tepid song is currently topping the charts. But for anyone who longs for Blink with a little bit of personality and juvenile attitude, you’ll find none of that here. It doesn’t even have anything to do with the album’s lack of DeLonge either because by the time he did Neighborhoods, his head was already in the stars chasing aliens.

Perhaps it is too much to ask for another song about jerking off in a tree, but this band used to be fun. Now they’re just pedestrian at best. Imagine an average Alkaline Trio hooking up with +44 on the dance floor of some terrible night club and you’ve got Nine. It’s a shame really. Growing up doesn’t always have to suck, but it really shouldn’t be this bland either.

(Columbia Records)

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