Album Review: Bon Iver - 'Bon Iver'

24 June 2011 | 11:44 am | Staff Writer

More than meets the eye.

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With each new release, or each new musical project that he has been involved with, Justin Vernon, the brains behind Bon Iver, has been revealing more and more about his musical personality. The most surprising of which would be his most recent, and quite frankly brilliant, collaborations with Kanye West.

On Bon Iver's second, self titled record, the musical pursuits of Vernon seem to accumulate into one, damn fine album. 'Bon Iver' seems like a natural progression from its predecessor 'For Emma, Forever Ago,' which was in effect, a diary of Vernon's romantic highs and lows set to the indie rock soundtrack of the year, where as the new record takes the spotlight away from the narrative and focuses more on the music and production.

Opening track Perth starts with a fuzzed out resonance which finds perfect balance between the raw sounds expected from Bon Iver and a new sense of slick production. This is followed by Minnesota, WI, lush instrumentation completed by a horn section and harsh, country style guitars and banjos, made cool by its thick bass line and synthesisers which modernise the folk influences with R&B tones. Quite a cocktail of genres and sounds but that is what makes the songs so exciting, as Vernon keeps the listener on the edge of their seat continually guessing what element he will include next.

Holocene is a highlight, once again due the production, as it uses a myriad of instruments, none of which are ever really given a focus as Vernon's vocals are made the feature and the many sounds behind them are sewn into one combined blanket of sound. The first single Calgary is perfectly catchy and the country influence of Towers will make people who hate country music (like me) kind of enjoy country music. The record ends with Beth/Rest a rock ballad that uses tastefully auto-tuned vocals and saxophone solos to end the album with a fun sense of quirk.

The songs on ‘Bon Iver’ stand alone but also work well together giving the album a nice flow. As either background music or something to sink your teeth into and analyse, to find all of the production wonders, this album is great and proves that Justin Vernon may well be one of the best musicians of our generation.

1. Perth

2. Minnesota, WI

3. Holocene 

4. Towers

5. Michicant

6. Hinnom, TX 

7. Wash.

8. Calgary

9. Lisbon, OH 

10. Beth/Rest