Bon Iver – Bon Iver (S/T) Bon Iver – Bon Iver (S/T)

Bon Iver - Bon Iver (S/T)

Even attempting to release a second album, Bon Iver dove into a challenging dilemma. For Emma, Forever Ago, released in 2007, came out of nowhere to the welcoming surprise of nearly anyone who heard it. Recorded in seclusion in a remote cabin, its songs of heartbreak and despair are practically unrivaled in sincerity and realness. It quickly became a favorite of listeners and critics; marking its spot on numerous best of year as well as best of decade lists. To follow up such a success will only bring about judgmental comparisons.

Most likely a great decision, Bon Iver, the groups’ second release shares very little in common with its predecessor. Gone is the minimalist approach to recording, the lo-fi sound that was half the charm of For Emma, Forever Ago. This time around Bon Iver is a full band, in a studio, with a lot of production. It is most definitely, at its heart, the same group we came to know, but its new vibe quickly sheds unnecessary comparisons.

As with For Emma, Forever Ago, the first few listens to Bon Iver proved to be full of well written, personal, serenely beautiful songs. They were nice to listen to, but didn’t immediately grab my attention. After several days however, it was apparent that this record was sneaking under my skin, leaving me with a strong desire to listen more and more. With each time around the serenity transitioned slowly to forlornness full of complexity, the beauty reveals its tinges of tragedy. The more time spent with this record, the more engaging it became.

Although it’s easy to note the similarities between Bon Iver’s two albums, it’s the differences that make this record intriguing. For Emma, Forever Ago, with its obvious theme of heartbreak was perfectly mirrored with utter sparseness. While the theme of Bon Iver is more obscure, one could venture, due to the fact that all the song titles are (at least loosely) based on geographical locations, that it is about loneliness of a different kind. It has tones of feeling lost, not having a place to call home. Bon Iver perfectly captures its complex theme through a barrage of heavily layered songs. They are on the brink of being overdone, which is exactly what adds to the feeling of being lost and scattered. Each song feels like a completely intimate, personal view into these feelings. This seems to be the true allure of Bon Iver: Justin Vernon (the front man) writes music that seems too personal, making the listener feel pleasurably guilty, like a voyeur.

While there are certain tracks on Bon Iver that stand out, it doesn’t seem fair to break this piece of work into a song by song basis. Too much of the album depends on its every element. In other words, it’s an album in the purest sense. Complimenting the motif, every second of music would feel utterly astray unless accompanied by its entirety. Uprooting them from where they belong would make them feel out of place.

1. Perth
2. Minnesota, WI
3. Holocene
4. Towers
5. Michicant
6. Hinnom, TX
7. Wash.
8. Calgary
9. Lisbon, OH
10. Beth/Rest

Bon Iver - Bon Iver (S/T), reviewed by Daniel G on 2011-06-21T09:14:31-07:00 rating 4.5 out of 5

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