Wisconsin is a cold tundra-like land, home of beer farts, cow shit, “Happy Days” and, of course, the Green Bay Packers. We also have a pretty good history with cannibal serial killers… but let’s not get into that. Other than Chris Farley, Ed Gene, and Gene Wilder, Wisconsin has given life to one of the greatest modern folk musicians, Justin Vernon.
Growing up in Wisconsin, I know how proud we as citizens of this great state can get. Generally most Wisconsinites adore the Packers, mainly because without us there wouldn’t be the Packers, we own the team. I personally believe that gave us as Wisconsinites a weird sort of pride. We work hard to market our state in a good light. We’re proud of our lifestyles and everything that reflects our way of living.
Whether it be The Packers, the politics of Russ Feingold, New Glarus’ “Spotted Cow,” or Bon Iver, all represent our unique American life and we’re proud of all of them.
Enough talk about sports, this is “Pointlife,” and this article is really about Justin Vernon, Bon Iver and their reflection of life in Wisconsin- at least how it’s perceived by me, a poor college student with the nerdy hobby of writing.
In 2008, Justin released “For Emma, Forever Ago,” to the world and the world took notice. What was interesting was a that more people seemed to be into the story behind the album than the actual beautiful sound it created. In short it was break-up story: man gets dumped, man secludes himself in northern Wisconsin cabin, man produces art with inspiration from lost love and the quiet solitude of Wisconsin winter. Face it: if you’re not into ice fishing, skiing, or snowmobiling, your Wisconsin winter consists of mainly shoveling driveways and self-reflection. Vernon just gave us a soundtrack, one with a story we all personally have experienced in some form or another.
Wisconsinites are also used to having to transition themselves from winter to spring and, take it from me, the transition can be difficult. Our winters are so long at times it seems like we’ll never see green grass again. In the long run we do see the green grass again and when we do, we really appreciate it. I believe a similar transition happened to Justin Vernon between albums. He wasn’t the heartbroken folk singer we all knew him as anymore. He picked himself out of the snow and stepped into something bigger, something he had to prepare for. In his release of his new self-titled album, we can hear the very transition: the sound has more positive energy with lyrics that evoke the listener with hope, romance and curiosity.
His music hasn’t gone unnoticed by the rest of the nation either; Vernon and the Bon Iver crew have earned four Grammy nominations, two of which are best record and best song for “Holocene.”
Admittedly, this isn’t an album review; this is more of a long-winded thank you to Vernon. Bon Iver continues to put out great albums that, in my opinion, express our unique Wisconsin lifestyle and, seeing that both the mayor of Milwaukee and Eau Claire declared two different “Bon Iver Days,” I’m not the only one in the state that thinks that.
Bon Iver, good luck at the Grammy Awards, Wisconsin is proud of you.
The 54th Grammys will be held Feb. 12 in Los Angeles.