Bon Iver – ‘Bon Iver’ // ALBUM REVIEW

Remember me saying ‘ I CAN’T WAIT 5 WEEKS’ turns out i didn’t have too, took me under a week to get hold of Bon Iver’s new album. So here’s my review of Bon Iver’s self titled new album.

After writing ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ (Which is going to be abbreviated to ‘FEFEA’ for typing purposes’ ) which was an album made up of Vernon’s emotions over the time he spent secluded in a cabin in Wisconsin, Vernon had a hard album to follow. All instruments played on FEFEA were played by Vernon and all songs stemmed from Vernon finding out he had some sort of liver issue and umonia, this is the reason FEFEA was such a striking album as Vernon wanted to create something to be remember for if things took a turn for the worst, but this was not his original plan he just left to his fathers cabin to get away from all his troubles and isolate himself from everything and everyone. This is why his debut was so filled with heartache, love, loss guilt all because of the three months of solitude he spent voicing his personal troubles.

Vernon claimed that “Somewhere along the line, I forgot how to write songs, I couldn’t do it anymore with a guitar. It wasn’t happening.”, well let’s see how ‘Bon Iver ‘reflects on that.

‘Bon Iver’ has a completely different approach, of course his follow up album wasn’t going to be recorded in another cabin. Its a studio album. It has the beauty and the emotion (like ‘Blood Bank’) but it lacks the grit that ‘Re: Stacks’, ‘The Wolves (Act I & II)’ and most of FEFEA had.  This however, isn’t necessarily all bad. ‘Perth’ the opening track of the album starts off the album with a haunting and magical riff which hooks you from the very start, percussion which was a key factor to FEFEA is still a key element to Bon Iver’s music. However the characterising percussion of FEFEA has changed to powerful beats to create louder tunes and gives ‘Bon Iver’ an strange edge, as your not quite sure what emotion Vernon is conveying. In ‘Perth’ (descirbed by Vernon as a Civil War-sounding heavy metal song with martial drums, choir and wailing guitars) the strong drums and triumphant brass add to this new power of ‘Bon Iver’ and Vernon’s new direction.

‘Minnesota, WI’  has an intro which sounds very unlike ‘Bon Iver’ and more like Vernon’s project Gayngs. However it leads into an interesting new side of Bon Iver with odd instrumentation a mixture of synth, banjo, saxophone and guitar. Although FEFEA seemed to be a solo project we can see that ‘Bon Iver’ has changed Bon Iver from Vernon’s solo project into a group. After working with Kanye West on ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ I expected this album to have a more synthy Gayngs feel to it, but the way Vernon has incorporated it is odd, its spectacular, its unique and that is what Bon Iver are, unique.

‘Holocene’ sounds like more traditional Bon Iver, much like Vernon’s song ‘Hazeltons’ however ‘Holocene’ is much more intriguing. The instrumentation on this album is phenomenal. Bon Iver even has an orchestra working with them on this track and in collaboration with percussion similar to the kind that we all know and love from FEFEA ‘Holocene’ has probably snatched the prize for my favourite track.

‘Towers’ is yet another fantastic song bursting with colour and beauty. Vernon’s song writing on this album has definitely moved away from the melancholy of FEFEA (this probably stemming from it’s success), and all I can say is thank good god Bon Iver are not a one trick pony, we were all well aware Vernon could churn out songs off loss and desire, but ‘Towers’ is different towers puts a smile on my face. The song erupts into strings and rhythm half way through they song and even though this gives ‘Towers” an orchestral texture you can still hear the country and folky roots of Bon Iver and Vernon, “Towers” is truly enchanting.

Fuck me, I’m close to orgasming as I cannot find a single unattractive thing about this album, the melancholy of the debut is still influencing this album but all of the track are full of beauty. ‘Michicant’ is soft and has a hint of despair and towards the end occasional bursts of energy appear and you can hear some chiming which adds to the magical sound of ‘Michicant’.

‘Hinnom, TX’ is the most spooky track, holding a similar war type theme to ‘Perth’ while showing triumph in the falsetto voices. The track has a constant drone in it and it makes you feel strange giving you the same mixed emotions that ‘Minnesota, WI’ gives you. This track leads on perfectly and smoothly into ‘Wash’ which is a short powerful song of desire with the symphonic sounds once again creating the beauty of this album. ‘Wash’ is a song dominated by piano which is nice to hear as FEFEA which is a hugely guitar based album is now succeeded with a brand new kind of Bon Iver album what is full of so many instruments.

‘Calgary’ being the first single off the album is the most similar to FEFEA. Although it is linked to FEFEA it still has obvious style changes, as it is very VERY similar to the sort of sound Gayngs would make. “The whole Gayngs thing has knocked down so many doors for my brain,” claimed Vernon, well this track definitely shows the impact it had on him. The percussion is much like FEFEA however there is something synthy and haunting about this which sounds more like ‘The Gaudy Side Of Town’. The lyrics on this album especially this track show that Vernon has far from forgotten how to write songs. ‘Calgary’ is flawless, ‘Bon Iver’ is a flawless album.

‘Lisbon, OH’ is an introduction to ‘Beth/Rest’ which Vernon even says,  “Beth/Rest, is “definitely the part where you pick up your joint and relight it”. Its an odd track to end the album with a full on synthy track with wailing guitars and slight auto-tune, its like a Bruce Springsteen song, almost a mixture of  ‘The River’, ‘Human Touch’ and ‘Streets Of Philadelphia’  and sort of sounds like the intro to REO’s ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’. However it’s not shit. So no panic that it ends on a downer, it just ends very differently compared to the rest of the album. Despite it’s synthy and 80’s love song cheesey tones you can still hear the folky roots just as you can in ‘Towers’. There is jazzy piano, sax, distorted guitar and it is a fantastic twist on 80’s love songs and sounds sort of like a cheesy country and western slow dance you would get at the end of a barn dance. Although you may think that sounds dreadful, its surprisingly fantastic.

All I can say is, if anything Vernon is getting better. ‘Bon Iver’ is a 10/10

Here is ‘Holocene’, unfortunately there is no album stream, yet, stay tuned:



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