10.000 Songs: Bon Iver - Perth

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10.000 Songs: Bon Iver - Perth

Postby Rob » Sun Nov 19, 2017 7:36 pm

This topic is part of the weekly 10.000 songs, 10.000 opinions. In this, every week another song from the Acclaimed Music song top 10.000 is selected for discussion. The song is chosen completely at random, through random.org, making the selections hopefully very varied. The only other rule in this is that after an artist has had a turn, he can’t appear for another ten weeks. The idea for this topic came to me because I wanted to think of a way to engage more actively with the very large top 10.000 songs that Henrik has compiled for us, while still keeping it accessible and free of any game elements. Yes, that’s right, no game elements. You are free to rate the song each week, but I’ll do nothing with this rating. I want it to be about people’s personal reviews and hopefully discussions. So in reverse to other topics on this site I say: “Please comment on this song, rating is optional”.
Earlier entries of this series can be found here: http://www.acclaimedmusic.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=3065&p=45337&hilit=archive#p45337


“This is not a place”


98. Bon Iver - Perth

The facts:
Year: 2011.
Genre: Indie folk.
Country: United States of America.
Album: Bon Iver, Bon Iver.
Acclaimed Music ranking: #2751.
Song ranking on Acclaimed Music in the artist’s discography: 6th.
Ranks higher than Jesus Fever by Kurt Vile, but lower than Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) by The Delfonics.
Place in the Acclaimed Music Song Poll 2015: Unranked.

The people:
Produced by Justin Vernon.
Lyrics by Justin Vernon.
Vocals by Justin Vernon.
Guitar by Justin Vernon.
Steel guitar by Greg Leisz.
Drums by Sean Carey.
Saxophone by Colin Stetson.
Violin by Rob Moose.
Note: These credits might not be completely correct. I could only find credits for the whole album, but none specifically for Perth. There are a lot of musicians appearing on Bon Iver, Bon Iver and there is also a lot of overlap in the instruments they play.

The opinion:
This song sounds beautiful. I love it’s ethereal sounding guitar riff that sounds like it wants to break down and cry. The almost marching rhythms are surprisingly powerful for a song like this, but are all the more effective for it. The sax work by Colin Stetson is subtly and tastefully handled. And Justin Vernon can really sing as if he just invented melancholy himself. Perth in the end is almost the perfect autumnal song (though Vernon himself thinks this is a spring album), capturing a mood and perhaps a season in a way that is completely unexpected, but that feels familiar nonetheless.

And that’s basically it. The tranquil beauty of this track hardly calls for any more words, so why should I say more? Nonetheless, this series doesn’t work as simply as that, so you’ll get more words anyway.

There is of course a back story to Perth. Why is this song named after an Australian city? Apparently because Heath Ledger was born there. In January 2008 this actor died and at the time Justin Vernon was shooting a video in Winsonsim with a film maker who was close friends with Ledger. Vernon then had to comfort this guy, Matt Amato, who couldn’t leave Wisconsin, because of extreme winter weather. This scene inspired Vernon to compose and write this song.

How that really worked is hard to say. Musically it sounds rather sad, but also comforting so I could see it there. The lyrics on the other hand are a bit too obtuse to really link to this anecdote (“Still alive who you love” perhaps fits… Does it?). Then again, it is frequently hard to make out what Justin Vernon sings, because his voice is almost ingrained in the instruments. It is the texture, the sound of the vocals, that is moving.

Perth opens the album Bon Iver, Bon Iver (or just Bon Iver) and it is worth mentioning that it although it works very well as a stand-alone song – it has a clear beginning and end – it segues immediately into the second track, Minnesota, WI. The outro of Perth continues on, becoming the intro of that song. After that, Minnesota, WI goes its own way, but it makes clear that Bon Iver, Bon Iver is meant as an album that is one of a piece. Vernon has confirmed as much. Still, most songs on the album follow on each other with a silence of about a second. Perhaps there is meaning to be found in that the first song is named after Heath Ledger’s birth place and that the second is named after the place were Vernon and Amato heard about his death? Or for that matter that it is were Vernon is born? The meanings as well as the lyrics of Bon Iver are a bit too obtuse to be sure, something not helped by the fact that Justin Vernon isn’t the most eloquent interview subject (I found out today that he is one of the least engaging interviewees I’ve come across yet). Some songs of Bon Iver have strangely effective lyrics, but not really these two.

No, Perth is all about the music for me. In 2011 this sound came as a surprise. After the mostly acoustic, stripped-down sounds of the debut album For Emma, Forever Ago, the more full, pastoral sounds of Bon Iver, Bon Iver where a real change of pace. Of course, on the third album the band would go even further and create something that seems hardly relatable to For Emma anymore. For me though, this is the sound of Bon Iver I like the most and perhaps Perth is my favourite track by the group. As I said at the beginning of this review this is the perfect autumnal song. Its beauty is hard to capture in words and I think even Justin Vernon failed in that task. What matters is how it feels, how every guitar twang sends a slight shiver through my spine. Don’t talk about this song, it might fall apart.

Other versions:
This song has hardly been covered, which doesn’t surprise me, as its specific instrumentation is what makes it special. So unless you copy it sound for sound there is hardly anything to be gained. The electronic dance group Avec Sans prove as much. They barely kept anything from the original bar the lyrics and although it is not a bad song on itself, as a cover of Perth is doesn’t amount to much.

Besides that, there is only an instrumental version for violins here, made by a group called The Hipster Orchestra, which gives you the feeling they want to stereotype Bon Iver listeners even more. Not a bad cover though.

And that’s it. I added another song called Perth by amiina to tracklist which isn’t a Bon Iver cover, but somehow fits the mood of this week’s song oddly well. I don’t know much about the city; is it a quiet and melancholy place?

The playlist:
Last edited by Rob on Sun Nov 26, 2017 7:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 10.000 Songs: Bon Iver - Perth

Postby DaveC » Sun Nov 19, 2017 9:33 pm

Rob wrote:I don’t know much about the city; is it a quiet and melancholy place?

Ha Ha No. Indeed, Autumn as you know it doesn't happen in Perth. Autumn and winter are mild. I have family in Perth and usually when I'm there the sky is blue, when clouds come they come swiftly, dump their rain hard and go. I'm visiting in January and hoping that the temperature doesn't rise above 40C too often.

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