Early Album Review: Bon Iver [Bon Iver]

Rating: 9.6

Release Date: June 21, 2011

Label: 4AD

Bon Iver (or specifically lead singer and mastermind Justin Vernon) first entered our consciousness about 3 years ago with the brilliant but sobering debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago. Armed with a guitar, a few mics and a makeshift drum kit, Vernon recorded the album alone in a cabin in rural Wisconsin. Encompassing years of heartbreak and love loss, the album evoked a sense of pain that was palpable and all the while enthralling. A year and a few Grey’s Anatomy episodes later, Vernon’s star was on the rise. Most notably, Vernon took a turn as singer and collaborator on Kanye West’s most recent album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. After touring extensively, Vernon and his mates returned to the studio for a follow-up, resulting in this, their eponymous follow-up.

Back again is their signature ambiance, marked mostly by Vernon’s haunting falsetto vocals, except this time, the production is more dynamic. The opening track “Perth” starts up with a guitar lick that repeats, followed by deeply reverberating vocals and a marching snare; somewhat familiar territory. But the song then picks up its intensity with horns and a double bass drum; perhaps a signal of what lurks next. The dreamy “Holocene” sounds much like something from the previous album, except that it’s far more layered in sounds and textures. The album’s first release, “Calgary” is also the band’s most upbeat song on the album. Essentially straight-ahead rock, it rounds itself out nicely with some carefully placed synth work. The album closes in a peculiar way with “Beth/Rest,” an 80’s styled-ballad that would make Michael Bolton blush. Replete with 80’s keyboards and a sax solo (yes you read that correctly), the song sounds like it was meant to be played during the credits of some random 80’s flick. Don’t worry though, somehow- like the rest of the album- it works.

Learn more about Bon Iver at http://www.boniver.org/

Select Cuts: Perth, Holocene, Calgary

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