Bon Iver, “Towers”
Bon Iver, 2011
I wrote before about The Jezabels “Endless Summer” basically being the musical equivalent of being smashed up by a powerful wave. Well, it’s all okay, because Bon Iver is here to lay us softly down and drift with us in the calm shallows. Harmonies in hand, with a couple of backup singers, he sings softly to us until we doze contentedly.
Bon Iver has evolved, that much is blatantly evident. Gone are the overly morose and generally depressing melodies and lyrics that dominated his debut For Emma, Forever Ago, replaced by drums and upbeat tempo’s and lifting harmonies. Bon Iver has emerged out of the foggy darkness, and the light is quite cheering.
Begun by two electric guitars softly picking a melody, Towers feels happy- moving quickly, dominated by major notes. It’s all a precursor, of course, to the harmonies that enter about 30 seconds in. The harmonies are pure Bon Iver- layered, high, sounding slightly strained and wrung out. They dive down low and swoop up high, just touching the far reaches of his range. The diction is still messy, I can’t hear on the first listen what on earth he is saying, but he sure is singing it nicely.
Underneath these harmonies he is joined by the bass, holding long notes, adding depth to his high vocals. The sound now is grounded, now floating around like his tracks on his previous album. Soft horns and an accordion (!!) make an appearance, adding to the layers, not dominating proceedings at all, just making it all swell and build. Percussion occasionally appears to tap a few notes in quick succession and then melt away.
The bridge section throws up something quite unexpected, the drums enter and the horns and accordion pick up, and suddenly we hear what cabaret music sounds like in Bon Iver’s head. Well…as close to cabaret as he can possibly get, which is not very.
But after that, the soft guitars return, aided by the horns, and the harmonies return to their swooping routine. The melody is understated, but utterly relaxing and pleasant.
Perhaps don’t listen to it whilst floating in water, that’s all I’m saying.