I guess Justin Vernon can do no wrong. Whether it’s writing transcendent melodies about Wisconsin, life and love, or getting eerily dark over a Kanye West beat, the man knows how to deliver pure awesomeness. Justin Vernon is a modern day music chameleon. He seems to transform himself into new musical beings constantly. It’s almost like he gets off on it. He never seems to want the spotlight, and is happier laying low in the shadows, yet his hands are all over every project he touches. He owns them and makes them brilliant. The latest hand job comes in the form of a new musical collective known as Volcano Choir.
Who is Volcano Choir? Volcano Choir is a six piece juggernaut of artistic freedom, expression, and beauty. The band is comprised of Justin Vernon and members of Death Blues (Jon Mueller) and All Tiny Creatures (Thomas Wincek, Matthew Skemp) as well as Daniel Spack. The band originally was conceived conceptually in 2005 but didn’t record their first album until 2008 in Vernon’s home state of Wisconsin. Their debut album was titled Unmap, and reached number 92 on the Billboard Top 200. Repave is their breand new album that was released earlier this month. This is the album that has got me in a tizzy. I literally can’t stop listening to it. It is eight songs of musical pagentry. It’s just simply beautiful music that needs to be shared and heard by all. It’s powerful yet subtle. It’s haunting yet inviting. It is a very impressive piece of work for a sophomore album. Since the release of Unmap, all of these artists have grown tremendously in their craft and you can tell by how tight this album sounds. Sonically, it is very strong. Vernon’s lyrics stand out as clear as day on this LP. In the past, his lyrics have almost been somewhat inaudible creating more of a mystery to who this man really is. But he is full frontal on this album, showcasing his skills as a lyricist as well as a pretty good front man.
I fell in love with Justin Vernon through the Bon Iver records. Their is a certain honesty about his music that I think is unmatched in music. When you see Bon Iver perform live you can see the discipline and control Vernon has with his music. He is such a commanding presence on stage. It is quite awesome to watch. After Bon Iver’s last album, Bon Iver, reached mass critical acclaim and Grammy noteriety, I was wondering what would happen to Vernon. Up to that point, he hadn’t reached house hold name status yet. But to his credit he has stuck to his guns and continued to make uncompromising, pure and honest music. Volcano Choir is another level into the depths of Vernon’s magical soul. Take a listen to “Byegone,” “Acetate,” or “Tiderays” and close your eyes. The listener gets taken on a trip through the outdoors to a land of promise and uncertainty. Whichever road it leads you on, it’s a trip worth taking. Vernon keeps his hands busy in a couple of different side projects besides Bon Iver. He is a member of Gayngs, and the Shouting Matches. I’m not sure if Vernon will ever return to bring us more music from Bon Iver, but with Volcano Choir he has found a new place in my heart. Repave is a beautiful album. One that stands at the top of my list of things I have heard this year. Whether or not Vernon will be receiving more hardware on Grammy night for this project is yet to be seen, but he should find a spot in your iTunes playlist. Music this good just doesn’t come around all the time. Enjoy the ride.
Link to Volcano Choir “Byegone”
Link to Volcano Choir “Tiderays”