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Bon Iver on World Cafe | September 16, 2013

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This session, from Sept. 2, 2011, is part of our Vintage Cafe series, in which we revisit some of our best studio performances.

It's a stretch to call "Beth/Rest" 2011'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 Bon Iver, and the lovely but lesser-known "Beach Baby," from 2009's Blood Bank EP. (via World Cafe)

Tracklisting

(( )) for interlude music

HOUR 1

The Lone Bellow “You Never Need Nobody” The Lone Bellow
Elvis Costello & The Roots “Wake Me Up” Wise Up Ghost
Elvis Costello & The Roots “Cinco Minutos Con Vos” Wise Up Ghost
((Bon Iver “Beach Baby” Recorded Live from the Rare Book Room))
Bon Iver “Holocene” Recorded Live from the Rare Book Room
Bon Iver “Beach Baby” Recorded Live from the Rare Book Room
Bon Iver “Beth/Rest” Recorded Live from the Rare Book Room
((Bon Iver “Holocene” Recorded Live from the Rare Book Room))
Volcano Choir “Byegone” Repave
She & Him “Never Wanted Your Love” Volume 3
((Bon Iver “Holocene” Recorded Live from the Rare Book Room))

HOUR 2

Crosby Stills & Nash “Country Girl” Déjà vu
Wildcat! Wildcat! “Mr. Quiche” Wildcat! Wildcat! EP
Wildcat! Wildcat! “The Chief” Wildcat! Wildcat! EP
Vampire Weekend “Unbelievers” Modern Vampires of the City
Prince “Little Red Corvette” Hits and B-Sides
((Dawes “God Rest My Soul” North Hills))
White Denim “Pretty Green” Corsicana Lemonade
The Allman Brothers “Southbound” Brothers and Sisters
Parquet Courts “You Got Me Wondering Now” Tally All The Things That You Broke
Violent Femmes “Blister in the Sun” Violent Femmes
((Franz Ferdinand “Right Action” Recorded Live for the World Cafe))
Neko Case “Night Still Comes” Recorded Live for the World Cafe
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss “Please Read The Letter” Raising Sand
Willy Mason “Talk Me Down” Carry On
John Martyn “Bless the Weather” Live at Leeds
((Anders Osborne “Mind of a Junkie” Recorded Live for the World Cafe))