Even before Bon Iver’s self-titled album was officially released (iTunes accidentally leaked it) it had already secured itself a top position among everyone’s “best of 2011” lists. And with good reason. This album is pretty extraordinary.
The much-anticipated sophomore album was not recorded in a secluded hunting cabin, as was the case with “For Emma, Forever Ago”. Instead, this time, he apparently chose to do so in a converted swimming pool attached to a veterinarian’s office. Can’t say Justin Vernon doesn’t have style.
“Bon Iver” has more range and is more elaborate and thoughtfully arranged than “For Emma, Forever Ago”, which in my opinion was a bit more intimate and personal. This time, he expanded his sound and experimented a bit more. While still retaining the elusive, melancholy sound from “For Emma”, the new album’s sound is just bigger. The opener track, “Perth” and “Calgary” are perfect examples of this. While still restrained, these songs just grow and grow, and transform themselves into something completely different, or at least into something you didn’t expect.
Listening to Bon Iver’s music is an experience in and of itself. The songs are deeply emotional and often devastating in their beauty. The lyrical meanings of the songs are wildly open for interpretation (in fact, it’s often extraordinarily difficult to understand them on a literal level), thus allowing us to make them our own in a thousand different ways, or else, find new meanings upon each listen. It’s damn near impossible to grow tired of Bon Iver.
After his brilliant, critically-acclaimed 2007 album, Justin Vernon had his work cut out for him, and yet he didn’t disappoint. Far from it. “Bon Iver” just further showcases his amazing talent and masterful vocal harmonies (that falsetto!). I don’t know if this is just his natural growth as an artist, or if his many collaborations (Volcano Choir, Gayngs, Kanye West) rubbed off on him – whatever it is, it’s a good thing. He didn’t lose his way while exploring new sounds, he just made the logical transition without missing a step, and still managed to keep his music’s soul intact.
Buy the album! Or, if you haven’t already, stream it via NPR.
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