Music INDIE-FOLK BON IVER Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Sat 22 Oct

‘Profit, profit, nigga I got it, everybody know I’m a motherfucking monster.’ Of all that Justin ‘Bon Iver’ Vernon might have done next after the huge critical acclaim and popular devotion for his exquisite 2008 debut For Emma, Forever Ago, lending his vaporous voice to a track featuring Kanye West rapping thusly must have been the last thing anyone expected. But maybe his contribution to two tracks on West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy isn’t as improbable as it seems. Both unpredictable and in-demand leading lights of their respective genres, they share some things in common if also starkly contrasting inclinations towards trumpeting their own successes. Vernon still a resident of his native Eau Claire, Wisconsin practically invented his own niche of indie-folk. Following his debut, made alone in a remote cabin where he’d retreated, wounded by break-ups musical and romantic, every singer- songwriter sporting a flannel shirt and acoustic guitar from Benjamin Francis Leftwich to James Vincent McMorrow seems to arrive with a biog about escaping to nature and solitude to focus their artistic vision. The Bon Iver story has skipped on several chapters from that media-friendly arrival, to collaborations with The National, St Vincent and James Blake among others (Neil Young wants him to collaborate), and a self-titled second LP that sees him spread his wings in style, emotion and sound (ten extra players contribute), from the post-rock dynamics of ‘Perth’ to playful 80s MOR homage ‘Beth/Rest’. And yet the allure of Vernon’s music remains steady: a shiver-inducing approach to melody and a soulful voice that conveys almost supernatural beauty and sadness. As he prepares to play sold-out concert halls, he’s on a precipitous rise. Or to quote that Kanye track again, he’s ‘about to take it to the next level, bitch’. (Malcolm Jack)


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AVANT-POP ST VINCENT Stereo, Glasgow, Tue 15 Nov

St Vincent’s 2007 debut, Marry Me, was a striking introduction to Annie Clark’s baroque pop vision. At times it sounds like an avant-garde take on pre-war Hollywood musicals, with Clark’s multi-tracked vocals vying for attention with expressionist strings and crashing pianos. Yet it’s also witty, sweet and sensual, not least on the crisp title track. 2009’s Actor saw Clark rein in some of the Broadway filligree, while advancing her songwriting and inventive arrangements. Many have commented on Clark’s knack for combining dark lyrics with lush music, and songs like the twisted lullaby ‘The Bed’ are as disturbing as they are gorgeous. But on this year’s Strange Mercy, Clark’s approach is never quite that

straightforward, and some of the most arresting moments are when the unnerving tenor of the lyrics leaks into the music, bursting forth in bilious waves of fuzz guitar and squealing synths. This time around, Clark’s lyrical persona is more confessional, as she combines extracts from Marilyn Monroe’s diaries with her own experiences. The orchestral elements are stripped back, leaving plenty of space for her exquisite voice and skewed guitar to work their magic over writhing synth bass and the compressed thwack of producer John Congleton’s drum programming.

Live, Clark has been known to crank the guitars up, as her recent cover of Big Black’s brutal ‘Kerosene’ attests. But she can also bring the disco, as in her current single ‘Cruel’, or disarm with the dissolute R&B of ‘Surgeon’ or defiant torch balladry of ‘Strange Mercy’. (Stewart Smith) See for more info.

82 THE LIST 20 Oct–17 Nov 2011

ART-ROCK MUSCLES OF JOY Captain’s Rest, Glasgow, Sat 22 Oct; Oran Mor, Glasgow, Sun 27 Nov

The phrase ‘art-rock’ is much-abused, but in this case it seems appropriate. All seven members of all-female Glasgow group Muscles of Joy are practising visual artists in their day jobs, most attended Glasgow School of Art, and their sound is not what you might call unadventurous. While there’s a certain punk-rock rawness, a lot of their songs are characterised by tonal experiments and playful vocal motifs, straddling the boundary between the viscerally accessible and the avant-garde.

‘A few of us were in the [40-strong, Glasgow-based] Parsonage Choir,’ says Katy Dove, ‘and that’s when the idea for Muscles of Joy emerged. I think it was Leigh [Ferguson] who suggested it, because it was her flat where we had our first rehearsal in 2007, but she says she’s not taking responsibility.’ At first the band would just jam together; a familiarisation process which took eighteen months. ‘We’re all in it for different reasons, for example I wanted to develop musically whereas some of the others had been in bands before, but I think collaboration was the important thing for all of us. Being an artist can be a solitary practice, so we all enjoy this collective activity.’

This month sees the release of their impressive self-titled debut album, with a launch date at Oran Mor in November and shows in New York and Boston early next year. ‘We’re all really pleased with it,’ says Dove of the record. ‘Our live shows are different every time, so it can be hard for sound engineers to keep up with us; his was a chance to get the balance how we wanted it. It felt almost like we were hearing ourselves for the first time.’ (David Pollock)