Posted on June 21st, 2011 (11:00 am) by Clayton Williamson

Until I heard Peter Gabriel’s cover of “Flume” last year, I had never heard about the folk songwriter called Bon Iver. Once I researched this enigmatic artist, I quickly fell in love with his origins, now the stuff of indie legend. After several relationships collapsed in North Carolina, Justin Vernon retreated to a Wisconsin hunting cabin at the end of 2006 in order to compose and record songs over the course of a winter in solitude. The album that surfaced was For Emma, Forever Ago, a fantastic debut under the stage name Bon Iver. Singlehandedly the work of one man, For Emma was a showcase of raw talent, and exposed him to new audiences from Bonnaroo to Kanye West.

As success is wont to do, Vernon’s career brought about great change, and he's finished with working alone. The name Bon Iver is no longer the pseudonym of a single person, but rather the title of a collective musical group, and Bon Iver is their profound mission statement. This self-titled follow-up from Jagjaguwar is an assortment of drums, horns and backing vocals driven by electric guitar, with only hints of the acoustic minimalist folk that brought Bon Iver its initial fame. Thankfully, this conscious decision is one of positive growth rather than creative panic.

Good portions of the lyrics remain obscured by dense layers of sound and reverb, though that familiar tinge of romance still shines through. For all I care, Vernon could sing wordless melodies of total gibberish and I’d still be transfixed by his tremendous falsetto. Nevertheless, this work isn’t as immediately arresting as For Emma, but Bon Iver possesses a different set of charms with no intention of looking back, focusing on a mature departure from a lonely, heartbroken past.

“Towers” is a song for travelers, meant for meditations deep in airports and speeding trains, pulsing between heartbeat-like rhythms and verses drenched in anxious energy. “Minnesota, WI” features a buffet of new sounds and sonic beauties weaved into an urgency unlike anything Bon Iver has produced thus far, and opener “Perth” is set to the ghostly incantation of a fading marching band. Once you’ve ventured through the wonders of “Calgary”, you’ll find “Beth/Rest” waiting at the exit, an honest flag waver that drenches you in nostalgia, giving you the strength to call up the girl that's eluded you for years and give her that impassioned speech you’ve rehearsed in your head over and over again.

A warm, sentimental creation, Bon Iver is best enjoyed in the company of your romantic other, whether you’re only spooning or making sweet indie love. Even if you find yourself in solitude, however, you’ll still comfort in the band's genuine declaration that beauty can still thrive in a world of falsehoods and horror. This is the album Bon Iver needed to make, and we’re lucky to have them.

Track list:

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
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

84 / 100
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