Thursday, April 2, 2009

Gifts: a guitar and Bon Iver

You know those gifts that stand out in life and truly mark a change? The ones that draw a clear line between before and after? Often gifts like this aren't material, like a new friend or mentor, but occassionaly you receive something that is entirely transformative. For me, one of these gifts was a guitar. 

It came as a surprise, a recognition and thank you for the work I put into my sister's engagement party. Apparently my mother and sister had been planning to take me out to get a pretty dress, but my father intervened and said, "How about a guitar?" Of course I knew none of this till after. And although I rarely give my father the credit he deserves, he was dead on with this. 

Getting a beautiful guitar came almost hand in hand with the gift of some of the greatest music I've come across. In late December I crossed paths with an old friend I hadn't seen in about 5 years. One evening, in between having a beer and playing rhyming games around a campfire, he asked me, "Emma, have you heard of Bon Iver?" Following my "nope" response, he pulled out his laptop and promptly put on an album with an eerily apropos title, "For Emma, Forever Ago". I didn't really listen to it then, but he burned me a copy that since then I think I've listened to at least a hundred times. And I've bought everything Bon Iver I can get my hands on. 

Following some painful breakups (band and girlfriend) Justin Vernon, main guy behind Bon Iver, moved out to his father's remote cabin in Wisconsin in the winter. Determined to take time and space to be alone, he brought minimal rudimentary recording equipment without any real plans to put down music. From that beginning "For Emma, Forever Ago" was born. I don't want to tell you too much, I'd rather you have your own experience of it without me influencing you. But I will explain the link I'm sharing with you a bit. I found this through my youtubing attempts and was blown away. Something I could seriously relate to. Bon Iver "toured" through some major cities in Europe to promote their album and had the opportunity to do some informal performances for a radio station/website in Paris. The a cappella version they first sing in this performance I can't get enough of, but you may want to fast forward through the talking at the beginning. Also, take a look at their new album, Blood Bank and Justin Vernon's appearance on an incredible compilation album called Dark Was The Night. 

This gift, along with several other gifts of music, pointed out to me just how important it is to pass on the things we love. Many of my favorite paintings, books, and music I discovered through friends. I think I want to say more than favorite. It seems that which has had the most meaning for me has been connected to people around me. So, to the friends who pass through this blog and love clicking links as much as I do, I encourage you to check out Bon Iver. Maybe it can mean something for you too, or this might inspire you to comment or post about music or the like that has been meaningful for you that I can check out.