2016 Tomme Suab Song of the Year: Bon Iver’s #29 Strafford Apts

I love this song. I hate this song. Let me tell you why. When I listen to this song, I hear this gentle, heart-on-the-sleeve tone throughout. That combined with Bon Iver’s talent and artistry would be the initial draw for me. There is a tender heart at the core of #29 Strafford Apts.

But then there are the technological, intentional blemishes that run throughout the entirety of Bon Iver’s 22, A Million record, and they are prevalent in this one. When I was first becoming acquainted with #29 Strafford Apts, that additional layer was not welcome as far as I was concerned. I wanted that tender heart to reign supreme. Not only did the techno-glitchiness interrupt that vibe, it totally “corrupted” the climactic third chorus in the song. Dammit. What was Justin Vernon thinking?

I cannot be sure what Mr. Vernon was trying to do, but my suspicion is that he did with this song exactly what he intended to do, and that was to disrupt the portrayal of that tenderness on purpose. At first, I was not very happy about that. And, I think maybe that was the point. As I’ve listened and contemplated further, there was another related dynamic I found provocative.

 

The techno-muffling during that third chorus sounds very reminiscent of when a tape got warped back in the day. Those of us who used to listen to cassettes on a regular basis know what I’m talking about and are well-acquainted with that malady. You’re listening to your favorite Thompson Twins song and then all of the sudden the voices are muffled and music is warped. Then it everything returns to normal. I’m quite sure this was the dynamic Vernon was going for.

However, when I heard my muffled version of Hold Me Now (look it up, kids), I knew if I heard it on the radio or someone else’s tape, I would hear the regular, pristine recording. That’s not the case with #29 Strafford Apts. I may NEVER hear the pristine, pure version of that chorus. And, that makes me mad. Furthermore, it convinces me further of Vernon’s genius. And when I consider that, it makes me smile.

So, yeah, I love this song and I hate this song. Which is why it is the 2016 Tomme Suab Song of the Year.

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