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Bon Iver On World Cafe | December 28, 2011

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It's a stretch to call "Beth/Rest" the year's most divisive song, but it's hard to discuss Bon Iver's second album without weighing in on its '80s-style closer. Next to the lush, impeccably crafted grace that precedes it, "Beth/Rest" couldn't be more jarring: With its electric keyboards, saxophones and epic guitar solos, the track could double as the lost love theme to a misbegotten action movie in which Morgan Fairchild seduces a suave diamond thief played by Lou Diamond Phillips.

In circles where such matters are discussed, "Beth/Rest" has become synonymous with "cheesy," defended primarily by contrarians. Which is too bad, because the song is a grower — at worst, there's clearly beauty in there somewhere. Singer Justin Vernon has defended "Beth/Rest" endlessly, and has clearly fallen more deeply in love with the arrangement the more people make fun of it, to the point where he always performs it with its moist embellishments intact.

Until now. As part of a stripped-down set for World Cafe, Vernon threw in a spare solo arrangement of "Beth/Rest" — no saxophones, no solos — on a real, unplugged piano. Vernon still takes his vocal in unexpected places, especially early on, but if you're one of those "Beth/Rest"-haters who wishes the song would get stripped naked and dressed in something more comfortable, you'll want to listen to this. And, as part of a half-hour performance and discussion with host David Dye, Vernon plays two other Bon Iver songs: "Holocene," from the new album, and the lovely but lesser-known "Beach Baby," from 2009's Blood Bank EP.(link)

Playlist

Hour 1

(( )) for interlude music

Megafaun "Real Slow" Megafaun
Kate Bush "Running Up That Hill" The Whole Story
Coldplay "Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall" Mylo Xyloto
((Bon Iver "Holocene" Live From the Rare Book Room))
Bon Iver "Holocene" Live From the Rare Book Room
Bon Iver "Beach Baby" Live From the Rare Book Room
Bon Iver "Beth/Rest" Live From the Rare Book Room

((Bon Iver "Beach Baby" Live From the Rare Book Room))

TV On The Radio "Will Do" Nine Types of Light
Finley Quaye "Sunday Shining" Maverick A Strike
Bob Marley & The Wailers "Them Belly Full" Natty Dread

Hour 2

Marshall Crenshaw "Cynical Girl" Marshall Crenshaw
Langhorne Slim "Restless" Langhorne Slim
Buddy Holly "Everyday" From the Original Master Tapes
The Black Keys "Dearest" Rave On
Okervil River "Rider" I Am Very Far

((Dawes "Way Back Home" Recorded Live for the World Cafe))

Dawes "If I Wanted Someone" Recorded Live for the World Cafe
Dawes "Time Spent In Los Angeles" Recorded Live for the World Cafe
Dawes "Little Bit of Everything" Recorded Live for the World Cafe
Dawes "Fire Away" Recorded Live for the World Cafe

((Dawes "If I Wanted Someone" Recorded Live for the World Cafe))

Indigo Girls "Making Promises" Beauty Queen Sister
Josh Ritter "Right Moves" The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
Fitz & The Tantrums "Breakin' the Chains of Love" Pickin' Up the Pieces
The Bird and the Bee "I Can't Go for That" Interpreting the Masters
Neil Young "Rockin' the Free World" Freedom