Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Song of the Day #341 - Bon Iver - 33 "GOD"

I could go forward in the light, well I better fold my clothes


Yesterday I talked about how the best was yet to come and I didn't just say that to get Oprah Shmup stuck in my head (that was just a pleasant side effect). No, no, I was referring to this track. Although I was impressed as hell with "Over Soon", and stunned by the range suggested by that and "Deathbreast" (I'm too lazy to get all the proper spacing and unicode and such when referring to them like this), it wasn't "omg new p4k 10" hype. Maybe "omg new p4k 9+" hype, but I wouldn't even be sure that it would break the Yeezus ceiling. It was this track that really sold me. This track that made me think "10". I remember I was watching the lyric video, and right at that moment, when the title first flashes on the screen, rotating, you know the spot, I thought "10". Okay, I'm moving on from this post-ironic p4k circlejerking.

But there's so much going on here that I can't really even think of where to start besides rambling meaningless praise. There's the BoC-style numerology and cryptography, feeling like a code to unlock forgotten parts of your childhood. There's the instrumentation, which takes the bold iconifying and yet distancing presentation he gave the saxophone on the first tracks and now casts in them banjo, piano, strings, drums, now feeling like a whole band out of time and space. There's the structure, still loop driven but now with substantial movements and arcs, pushing into a climax so strong that it seems to resolve not only this track but the languidity of the previous two. There's the vocals and samples, which again have that haunting feeling of occurring just at the edge of recognition, of meaning, of memory...

There's so much, and any aspect I feel like I could rave about unfettered for paragraphs on end. But what I want to talk about most of all is the lyrics. In the previous two tracks, I sort of dodged the question of "what the hell is he talking about" with "it sure is evocative" or whatever, but here I actually have a pretty clear thesis: it's about the tragedy of an atheistic revelation. I'm not gonna go so far as to say that's what it's definitely about or anything, and maybe I'm only thinking along these lines because I've also been listening to Elysia Crampton and Money Allah's "Moth", which is more obviously about that, but I think at the least it's a very interesting line of thinking. Let's break it down a bit.

I've never really been very interested in atheist communities, largely because they always seemed to be so happy about the nonexistence of God, triumphant. It's totally understandable - they probably had a bad experience with organized religion, were told they were facing eternal damnation, and when they decided that they weren't, it was probably a very freeing moment, where a "fuck you" to those who told them otherwise is probably extremely deserved. Far be it for me to dismiss their experiences. But they weren't mine, and mine aren't unique: there have been many wonderful things done in the name of God, many things given fulfilling meaning, many fears and answers solved, much love expressed. I think despair is just a valid reaction to a crisis of faith as liberation.

But it is not one we hear often, usually confined to private hymns and sleepless bedroom nights... But hey, isn't that the home turf of our buddy Justin? And it's in this intimate space, this tiny room where his life began, that we hear him wrestling with it. Lamenting as a child ignored, a foreman down. Watching as memories disenchant and become "only places to him now" (doubly devastating if you consider the track names of his last album). The mental struggles are intercut with vivid slices of his real life ("sent your sister home in a cab"),  so that when he contemplates suicide (maybe?? "if the calm would allow, I would just be floating to you now"... Haunting, regardless of meaning...) it feels all too real, it feels like it really intersects with his real life.

But in the climax, both lyrically and musically, we emerge in his life on the other side of this crisis... "I didn't need you that night, not gonna need you any time, just gonna take it as it goes, I could go forward in the light, well I better fold my clothes", ahhh omg so good. The realization that, if God indeed is nonexistent, then he didn't actually need him in any previous crisis, and thus he can face this one and further ones alone. And thus he ought to just go ahead and do some chores. It is a stunningly beautiful existential message, assuming I'm at all close to what he's actually talking about lol. Regardless, it's a beautiful musical moment, perhaps my favorite since that part in Joanna Newsom's "Anecdotes" (you know the one). I'm so excited about this album I almost forgot NEW DANNY BROWN OMG IT'S OUT RIGHT NOW I'LL DO A REVIEW LATER TONIIIIIGHT

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