US - Wisconsin - Full Moon 182 - 07/15/11
Jagjaguwar / Playground
Finally, Bon Iver a.k.a. Justin Vernon comes up with his second album, the long awaited follow-up to the highly acclaimed For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar 2008, after being put out independently already back in 2007). Simply called Bon Iver, the record holds more of the same fragile songs and something quite new out of Vernon's mind and soul. With most of the songs named after geographical places (real or made-up?), this is maybe sort of a 'mapping' -- the "opposite" of Unmap by Volcano Choir, the side project which Vernon was a part of a couple of years ago.
Vernon's voice is the same, but the stripped and naked acoustic expression from ...Emma... is gone. The cabin fever isn't present. He still roams the valleys of melancholia, but the instrumentation and arrangements are richer and more colourful. As Emma sold quite well for an artist of this format and genre, the last year has lifted Bon Iver/Vernon even further: in April last year he covered a Peter Gabriel song (Gabriel covered Bon Iver's "Flume", as well), for a split
single for record store day. Then, last November, Bon Iver contributed to king of hip-pop rapster Kanye West's acclaimed million seller My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The latter will probably fill Vernon's bank account multifold, much, much more than his 'own music' will ever do.
Anyway, opener "Perth" reveals a majestic song. It opens quite calm and sober, but unveils war-drums and fanfares, cascades of delicious sound, including an eclectic electric, perfectly distorted guitar. It's just like it's been conducted by Sufjan Stevens. "Minnesota, WI" is clearly inspired by Peter Gabriel, if you're asking me. "Towers" is great, and the lyrical world of Bon Iver is really something else. This is poetry mirroring adventures and dreamy tales. Tales of truth, taken from life, it might be. "Hinnom, TX" almost makes me recall The Polyphonic Spree (well, maybe not the entire gang at once...). "Wash." is fabulous, touching and moving, but "Calgary" is an even more brilliant song, and (one of) the best of the album.
Bon Iver is solid gold. An album of almost breathtaking beauty with songs holding heartfelt emotions. 10 tracks, just above 40 minutes long. Very good, indeed. Yes, the threesome of "Calgary", "Perth" and "Wash." make it a classic, an essential album of 2011. Yet, it's still not as fantastic as For Emma, Forever Ago.
Copyright © 2011 Håvard Oppøyen