Bon Iver

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Bon Iver in 2011

Bon Iver is an indie folk semi-group comprising of Justin Vernon and whoever he has on hand at the time. After undergoing a nasty breakup, Vernon retreated to his father's cabin in Wisconsin and began recording demos for an album, planning to re-record them later. When he sent the demos to friends and record labels, however, they told him almost unanimously that the songs should be left as they were, so he signed with Jagjaguwar Records and released the demos as the album "For Emma Forever Ago." It received widespread acclaim and Vernon & co have been exploring the various ways to make listeners cry ever since. Some of Bon Iver's more well-known songs include "Skinny Love," "Re: Stacks," "Blood Bank," "Holocene," "Perth," "Calgary," and "Beth/Rest."



  • Blood Bank - 2009

Bon Iver provides examples of the following tropes:

So many foreign roads for Emma, forever ago.

  • Audience Participation Song: "Skinny Love," "The Wolves (Act I and II)."
  • Auto-Tune: Used for the backing vocals in the bridge of "The Wolves (Acts I and II)" and for most of "Beth/Rest." The latter is an affectionate homage to cheesy 80s soft-rock.
    • "Woods" consists of the same stanza repeated over and over, increasingly layered, Auto-Tuned, and distorted each time. It was even sampled by Kanye West, and the resulting song still has less Auto-Tune than the original.
  • BSOD Song: All of For Emma, Forever Ago has shades of this, but "Re: Stacks" is the most obvious.
  • Call Back: There's a line in "Minnesota, WI," along the lines of "I didn't lose it in the stacks," referencing the narrator's (and presumably Vernon's) breakdown in "Re:Stacks."
    • References to "so many foreign roads/worlds" appear in both "Creature Fear" and "For Emma."
  • Drowning My Sorrows: "Re: Stacks."
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: "Perth" features one.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: The name is a slightly Anglicized version of "bon hiver", French for "good winter." Vernon got the phrase from a Northern Exposure rerun.
  • Grief Song: All of For Emma, Forever Ago probably qualifies, but special mention goes to "Re: Stacks," which of all the songs on the album is the most up-front about it.
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": "Bone Ee-vair", not "Bonn I-ver".
  • Lonely Piano Piece: The acoustic version of "Beth/Rest."
  • Love Nostalgia Song: The bridge of "Calgary" seems to be this. It's one of the most heart-wrenching moments on the album.
    • Much of For Emma, Forever Ago toys with this, reflecting on the different aspects of the narrator's relationship with 'Emma' (actually a composite of several of Vernon's previous girlfriends) and eventually concluding that he's better off without her ("Skinny love has no nourishment; it can't grow"). This doesn't stop him for having a drunken breakdown over it in "Re: Stacks."
  • New Sound Album: The Self-Titled Album, due to Vernon assembling an actual band for it and being able to afford better equipment and an actual studio.
  • Non-Appearing Title: Many examples, among them "Perth," "Minnesota, WI," "Holocene," "Michicant," "Wash.," "Calgary," "Lisbon, OH," and "Beth/Rest." Partial examples include "The Wolves (Act I and II)," which features "the wolves" but not "(Acts I and II)," "Re: Stacks" which features the word "stacks" but not "Re:," and "Hinnom, TX," which features "Hinnom" but not "TX."
  • Obvious Beta: Inverted; the recordings found on "For Emma, Forever Ago" were supposed to be demo versions that would be rerecorded later, but those who listened to them liked them so much that they convinced Vernon to release them exactly as they were- as a result, every track on the album (with the exception of "For Emma," which had horns and drums added, and "The Wolves (Act I and II)," which had its backing vocals processed and distorted) is the original demo. It worked, and the lonely, isolated atmosphere made the album all the more heartrending.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: "Flume."[please verify] Also, 'fide' and 'fane'[please verify] from "Perth."
    • Please verify. Is this a case of Small Reference Pools, or is Bon Iver using Flume and Fane in ways other than their dictionary meanings and "fide" in a way other than its Latin meaning?
  • Precision F-Strike: "Holocene" and "Towers" both have one. The latter is quite easy to miss.
    • There's one in "Creature Fear" too, but it's used at such an uplifting point in the album (and rather hard to make out) that a lot of people don't hear it: "so many foreign worlds/so relatively fucked/so ready for us/a creature fear."
  • Refrain From Assuming: A lot, due to Non-Appearing Titles. Tempered somewhat by the fact that this only applies if you can understand what he's saying in the refrain anyway.
    • Somewhere, somebody thinks that "Holocene" is called "I Was Not Magnificent," or something along those lines.
    • It's called "Skinny Love," not "My My My."
    • It's called "The Wolves," not "What Might Have Been Lost."
    • It's pretty easy to assume that "Minnesota, WI" is actually called "Never Gonna Break." It's not.
  • Retraux: "Beth/Rest."
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: All of the tracks on "For Emma, Forever Ago," most notably "Lump Sum," where is voice is layered so much that the song sounds like it's being sung by a choir of Justins.
    • Averted on the Self-Titled Album; since, unlike "For Emma," he wasn't alone in the woods during recording, he could bring in other vocalists to sing backup.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: "Creature Fear" and "Team."
  • Signature Song: "Skinny Love" and "Holocene."
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Enthusiastically and unashamedly on the idealism side.
    • After being asked whether he was worried Beth/Rest, which uses autotune for artistic purposes, would be misinterpreted as being ironic:

Justin: By being overly proud of that fact [that it's not] I could totally inch myself into a corner of being insecure about it. But I literally just don't give a shit. I love that song. I cried while working on that song. I know what that means, where that comes from, and why you cry for music. It isn't for ironic reasons. It's for either sad or joyful reasons. And that song is joyous to me. I don't think it's going to end up being the biggest statement of my career because I have so much more to learn and grow. But I love it as the last song on this record. It feels so good.

  • Subdued Section: The first and last verses of "Calgary."
  • Throw It In: In "The Wolves," a siren can be heard in the distance.
    • There's a bit of incomprehensible studio chatter at the end of "Calgary."
  • Word Salad Lyrics

I ain't living in the dark no more, it's not a promise, I'm just gonna call it.