Review: Bon Iver – Bon Iver

On May 23rd, the entire new self-titled album by Bon Iver, was accidentally made available for sale on iTunes for a short period of time. Thankfully, (but unfortunately for them) I’ve had a chance to have a good listen to the entire album. I just couldn’t resist. The album isn’t available until the 20th of June, so keep the date set.

Lead vocalist Justin Vernon has been pretty busy with other projects since the release of their 2007 highly acclaimed debut album ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’. The brilliant ‘Blood Bank EP’ was released in early 2009, as well as contributing the song ‘Roslyn’ to the New Moon soundtrack, along with ‘Brackett, WI’ to the AIDS benefit album ‘Dark Was The Night’. In 2010 he collaborated with Kanye West on ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ on the track ‘Lost in the World’ which samples ‘Woods’ from the Blood Bank EP. Earlier this year, 15 year old English female musician ‘Birdy’, covered “Skinny Love” which peaked at #17 on the UK official singles chart.

He’s also been part of soft rock indie band ‘GAYNGS’ which consists of over 25 musicians, which also stars the likes of Har Mar Superstar. Their first album ‘Relayted’ was labelled ‘Album of the Year’ by The Guardian.

‘Bon Iver’ starts off with ‘Perth‘, easing in with beautiful guitar melodies, a commanding marching drum beat and Justin’s signature soothing vocals.

Minnesota, WI‘ is the first track which evidently shows off their musical experimentation, whilst seeming like a typical Folk-like song, synths kick in halfway through. Which on paper would seem like a weird idea, and the initial thing I thought was “is that a synth??”, but the low growling noise meshes together with the elements of the song well. The song is articulate and well written, “Settle past a patience where wishes and your will are spilling pictures, Water’s running through in the valley where we grew to write this this scripture”.

Holocene‘ is a very simple, mellow track which never dips too high or too low, always on a constant. A well written song, but never seems to go anywhere.

Towers‘ is a more upbeat song, beginning with lush guitar string-plucking chords and melodies. A little more experimenting here with Brass instruments and drum beats entering in mid-way. The song seems to be about being in love and the efforts and lengths we go to.

Hinnom, TX‘ is a rather interesting but short song, distorted chords underline the song whilst Justin sings about someone in mind whilst in Hinnom. “stranded every pain baby, pasts are slain, I got outta La Grange, in Hinnom, all this time, with your heart in mind, didn’t you edit”.

Calgary‘ is definitely the stand out track in the album. It sounds the most interesting, the most complete, and it sounds more produced than the others.

Lisbon, OH‘ – is just 1 and half minutes of nothing but elongated chords and small strange noises, no vocals whatsoever.

Beth/Rest‘ – is the oddest song on the album, it starts off with a really 80’s sounding keyboard, small Saxophone parts. Being the second longest song on the album, it builds up more and more with different instruments coming and going, Electric guitars join in halfway through and it all seems to climax nearer the end in one big sound.

Overall, I don’t think the album is as interesting or as magical as ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’. It just doesn’t have that something that made his debut so remarkable. I still think it’s an admirable effort, and his experimentation with different instruments and sounds is most welcome. His song written ability is still as complex and poetic as ever, never once letting down his guard. Topically, the majority of songs have emphasis on particular destinations and happenings and/or emotions around that time which make it worthwhile. His vocals sound really great, no cons in that respect. It’s got all the elements of what make a great album, everything should add up, but in my honest opinion it’s missing that elusive ‘something’.


Pre-order ‘Bon Iver’:


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