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DOUBLE BAGGED - Guitar geeks speak, and Viking invades
DOUBLE BAGGED - Guitar geeks speak, and Viking invades

Last week I opened the column with a short encouragement for y'all to listen to the music of Justin Vernon, who records under the name Bon Iver.

Wonder of wonders, many of you did, at least judging by my e-mail and phone calls.

Most of them were thank-yous, so you're all very welcome. Just passing on good music, courtesy of my colleague Tristan Scott.

Some of you message-leavers, however, wanted to talk in depth about possible meanings of specific songs from Vernon's "For Emma, Forever Ago," and a few of you guitar geeks wondered if I'd figured out the tuning to "Skinny Love."

As to that last matter, it's CGCGCC, a drone tuning that Joni Mitchell used from time to time. You can see the fingering on numerous YouTube videos.

As to meanings, one of things I like about this record is the sweeping, emotional landscape it inhabits without being overly specific. Unlike message music like, say, Springsteen's political work, which needs to be precise and concrete, Vernon is working the dark rooms of the brain, where we sort through our emotional misgivings, disasters and triumphs.

We don't need specific directions to escape those confines. A bit of comfort, some surprise, a dash of wit and a few sharp incisions will get us moving.

To wit, this bit from "re: stacks," which is slowly becoming my favorite tune from "For Emma:"

"This is not the sound of a new man or a crispy realization

It's the sound of the unlocking and the lift away

Your love will be Safe with me."

Perfect. Pointed enough to pierce, vague enough to let us all in.

A number of you also noted Vernon's use of the word "Kumran," also found in "re: stacks." I can't think of a more stunning opening line in recent memory:

"This my excavation, today is Kumran."

Kumran, also spelled Qumran, is the region of Jordan where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Vernon's use in "re: stacks" suggests the discovery of an emotional ruin that literally changes everything, as the discovery of the scrolls changed forever what we know of biblical documents.

"Everything that happens is from now on," Vernon sings.

Precisely so.

Which brings us to the week in live music, which is somewhat less precise, if only because the lyrics of the visiting band are very difficult to decipher.

But that's probably fine, as it's Times New Viking decidedly lo-fi approach that creates the Ohio band's ragged charm.

TNV is all about ragged energy; the instruments sound like they came from Sears, the speakers are 40 years old and cracked, and the vocals are howled out in gleeful, furious fashion.

Here's what the online music journal Pitchfork had to say about TNV:

"They're noisy enough to put off even fans of the 90s 'lo-fi' generation. But every chord, every note, every yelped vocal, every grizzled and treble-tearing tone is one of sheer exuberance - they may act aloof, but TNV get off on the privilege of just making a sound."

Times New Viking plays the Badlander on Monday, June 9.

They're worth your time.

Michael Moore can be reached at 523-5252 or by e-mail at

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