Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Sleeping in the Aviary: Expensive Vomit in a Cheap Hotel [Science of Sound, 2008]
What dewy tenderfeet get from Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, the weathered gimp who writes this column gets from Vernon's fellow Wisconsinite Elliott Kozel. Kozel leads actual band members, second fiddle though their bass-drums-accordion/saw may play, and sings like a 14-year-old freaked out by the frog in his throat rather than an angel choking his monkey. Informed by two untimely deaths as well as a Kanye-like combo of ailing mother and fractured romance, Kozel is feeling his mortality more concretely than the average young guy struck by the fact that 25 years equals a quarter of a century. Over a bereft, sardonic, punky power strum, he spins out songs that evoke the nearness of death and the fragility of romance all the more suggestively for not being quite literal about either, which is rarely how it works with tenderfoot image-slingers these days. First he's running around with his girl in the ground, then he's helping his mom with her shot. Both ways he feels terribly alone but knows he isn't. A-