Since the band surfaced in 2007, I have had my go-to winter soundtrack.

True, Bon Iver’s first album For Emma, Forever Ago was dropped in the summer, the band’s sound evokes a chilly, yet snug aura, as if personifying the bite felt in the air during winter; the crunch of snow underfoot.

Fittingly so, the name Bon Iver is meant to mimic the French phrase for ‘good winter.’ And, honestly, I wouldn’t have a good winter without this band.

I’m a seasonal music listener. I can’t listen to Bon Iver (much) in the summer. I can’t listen to Destroyer, Phoenix, MGMT, Surfer Blood or others (whom I discovered in the summer) when the weather is warm. Because it just feels off to me. It doesn’t quite fit. Which isn’t to say that these aren’t good, ‘every-time-listenable’ bands. But to me, certain music has a time and a place.

I often feel as though I have to ration this band to myself – aside from one full-length album and an EP (Blood Bank), Bon Iver’s unassuming ringleader Justin Vernon has since lent his vocals to side projects, duets and cameos. I treasure these few songs by Bon Iver…I don’t want to ever grow sick of them, skipping through them when they rotate through my iPod’s shuffle.

Which is why I am both sad and grateful that they halted touring live indefinitely to write more music.

What baffles me most is the group’s ability to make a raw, stripped sound come off feeling and sounding completely whole and fulfilling. And soulful. There are often just acoustic guitars holding up songs, with simple, barely-there drumming. It’s Vernon’s aching, beautiful, tormented falsetto that rounds out every song, speaking directly to that vulnerable piece of your core that you thought you’d hidden well enough.

Sometimes it hurts and sometimes it comforts.

Seeing Bon Iver play the Hollywood Forever Cemetery at sunrise last year was just about the most aptly placed performance I have ever witnessed. Since doors for the show opened at midnight and the band started near 5 a.m., it felt like I was just rubbing my eyes, sitting up to strain my sight as Bon Iver took the stage.

Vernon thanked the crowd, a sea of blankets on the grass, for ‘trusting me on this one’ by waiting to see his band play in a cemetery, no less, throughout the night and into the morning.

A thick, chilled fog rolled through the cemetery as the band passionately belted out every song in their catalog, struggling to keep their guitars tuned through the moist morning dew.

But it was honest, and a bit imperfect and hauntingly beautiful.

And it was just about winter time.

These are some songs I can’t live without in the winter:

“The Wolves (Act 1 & 2)” HERE

“Lump Sum” HERE

“Blood Bank” HERE

Hollywood Forever Cemetery performance 9.27.09

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