Written by Mark Mitchell
Three years is a long time between releases. Not that Justin Vernon has been hiding away, he’s just been focusing on things other then Bon Iver. Without fail, I am always faced with trepidation regarding an album release when the amount of time has been large since the previous release. In this technological age, where instant gratification is everything, after three Bon Iver-less years will people care anymore? Will the artist have lost something? After listening to “Calgary” just once, the answer is a resounding absolutely not.
The lush orchestration that starts the song off instantly prepares you for the tranquil beauty that is the voice of Bon Iver. In my opinion, there aren’t all that many VOICES coming out of music these days. Before you start to curse me out mentally, let me explain that I am in no way suggesting that there is any lack of musical voices in current music. Plenty of songwriters, singers, musicians as a whole out there that are keeping the wheel on fire, collecting that proverbial torch passed on from generation to generation. Music is doing just fine.
What I’m saying is that there aren’t too many VOICES, singers whose voice splatters paint in all kinds of crazy, beautiful, esoteric images on the blank canvas of the mind. Singers whose voices can be recorded a capella, and not a guitar chord or piano key is needed to justify the recording. Bon Iver is one of those voices. What this song does is lull me to a dreamlike state, then take me on a journey to a place I have never been. It takes me to Calgary. Albeit not the Calgary on the map in the Midwest of Canada. No, this Calgary is in my mind. A land of snow covered mountains, leading down the sun soaked beaches where the women are beautiful, the water is calm, the view is spectacular, and all anyone can seem to give a shit about is being happy while they accept their most innate sadness.
A weird concept I agree, but it’s the juxtaposition of the emotions this song makes me feel in four minutes that is so attractive about not only this song, but about every song I’ve heard from Bon Iver. The most basic of human emotions, happiness and sadness, melded into one supreme moment of feeling truly, unequivocally alive. This is what a good song should do, and “Calgary” does it.