Bon Iver, Joanna Newsom, Alec Ounsworth, et al.

Independent Artist Vocals Styles – A dissection.

I was thinking in traffic the other day about the “indie” band/artists and the vocal styling they can have.  What I am alluding to is the fact that often a vocalist in the “off the beaten path” side of the music industry can sometimes be…”not a formally trained vocalist”.

Basically you could get the range from hard to decipher lyrics to nails on chalkboard – so almost anything!  I wonder if they had an Indie American Idol – would they just take the people that get the cut from the real American Idol??!!?  Surely I jest and belittle what many great artists feel is their vocal style or even a calling card/signature delivery, but this does not necessarily make it untrue.

I admit myself that I now like and even LOVE some unique vocal styles, which at the onset felt strained and almost comical.  It is hard to explain how you can listen to some music quickly and possibly dismiss it totally and then after multiple listens it grows on you and eventually becomes exactly what you like.   Possibly you hear a song just at the right time, the exact point of the day or at a specific location that it was meant for, and at that very moment you “get it”.  This has happened to me for a few artists – can anyone say John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats or Jón Þór Birgisson of Sigur Rós??

Lets take a bit of a tour, shall we:

Alec Ounsworth – “Wide Awake” – demo from before/on the side of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah(!)
Bon Iver – “Flume” from the Incredible 2007/08 release “For Emma, Forever Ago” album.
Joanna Newsom – “Sawdust & Diamonds” from 2006’s “Ys” album


You can’t deny that if you were a first time listener of the above songs, you would think twice prior to a second listen.  Well maybe not, they are some good tracks, but you feel me on this one, I just know it.