Bon Iver’s girlfriend makes way more interesting music than he does.
Technically, Kathleen Edwards is only the girlfriend of Justin Vernon, the lead singer, but he’s basically the entire band. Since divorcing her previous husband (and collaborator), Edwards started working with Vernon who produced the bulk of this album. Thankfully, she maintains creative control, writing the songs herself on Voyageur, Kathleen’s fourth solid album in a row.
Kathleen Edwards didn’t grow up on American pop music. While 80s radio in the US was filled with dancepop and glam rock, Kathleen, daughter of a Canadian diplomat, was growing up in Switzerland and Korea, knee-deep in her older brother’s folk and rock albums. As a result, she comes across more like a singer-songwriter with a guitar in the vein of Neil Young as opposed to a revamped Sheryl Crow.
Voyageur is about (surprise) a journey, both physically and through nature, but mostly, through a relationship from beginning to end. Strangely enough, Kathleen’s relationship never seems particularly joyous…but I guess that’s what happens when you date Bon Iver. The majority of the record is a collection of melancholy, reflective, folk-girl music taken best in a rocking chair with a mason jar of hard lemonade. Kathleen may be Canadian, but her music feels like Arkansas, somewhere between country, indie rock, and folk storytelling. She definitely knows her way around a melody, and while you may not latch onto the hooks as quickly as one would hope, every song—every song—settles in by the third listen.
Kathleen seems to teeter between reverential love and dark pessimism for most of the album, so I’m not exactly sure what her relationship with Bon Iver is like. Still, if it leads to more collaborations like Voyageur, I’m up for more from this match made in melancholy indie heaven.
“Change the Sheets”
“A Soft Place to Land”