Bon Iver Baptism

At the end of the summer, we had to turn in my dirty-diesel Volkswagen hatchback for a rebate. It was the most we’d ever get for it, as it had 128,000 miles on it from long commutes, first my dad’s and then mine, back and forth from Pueblo to Colorado Springs.

I cleaned it out and found three snow-scrapers of various qualities and sizes, copious amounts of coins that dad had dumped into the cup-holder after getting back change from drive-throughs, technological dongles made irrelevant by iPhone updates, dog hair and dirt from Goldens and Goldendoodles, and one CD, Bon Iver’s self titled album.

I had burned the album from my iTunes account onto one of a twelve-pack of blank CDs that I had made my parents buy for me. At the end of the CD, I added both Bon Iver’s most-famous songs, “Skinny Love,” and their cover of Bonnie Rait’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” because I liked those songs, because I wasn’t self-conscious about ruining a full album’s standalone integrity at age fifteen, and because it was my CD, and I could do what I wanted with it.

This CD, Bon Iver’s Bon Iver, Bon Iver (plus “Skinny Love” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me”), was, I think, the main soundtrack to my high school consciousness. It was one of my first experiences with indie rock, a genre I now constantly listen to. It was also, importantly, one of the first albums I chose for myself, rather than one that I had found from my dad’s collection or something I had thought was cool after hearing it on a hits radio station. It marked the beginning of a subsequent musical consciousness, intent to actively participate in the musical soundtrack of my life.

Looking back now, I feel Bon Iver, Bon Iver was the perfect middle step between the sparseness of Bon Iver’s first album, For Emma, Forever Ago and their latest machine-like 22, A Million. The album has a certain vastness to it, like it could encapsulate everything. This was partly because the sweeping instrumentals of the songs played in the back and front speakers of my car, like a symphony orchestra coming at me from all sides. This was also because the lyrics were so hard to understand while sung in Vernon’s blurry falsetto that I could ascribe my own meaning to it. I think this versatility of meaning was key: it allowed me to hear it anywhere.

I listened to it on the drives to school, sunrise first peaking from yellow-brown prairie-plains, then fully up by the time I reached the mountain views. I listened to it on the drives home, late-night lonely highways with brief interludes of construction lights. (It’s a particularly good album for late night listening.) I listened to it on the way up to dances in our campus center with no grinding allowed, the way home from lost soccer games without enough playing time, the way up to AP tests on campus, the way down to family dinners. I listened to it after my first date and after our twentieth. I listened to it with others. I mostly listened to it alone. (It’s a particularly good album to listen to alone). I listened to it and I grew up. It grew up with me. --Maile McCann


Maile McCann ’18 is a government and psychology major at Wesleyan University.