Friday, June 17, 2011

The Myxem Staff Reviews "Bon Iver, Bon Iver" by Bon Iver

Bon Iver, Bon Iver, released June 21st, 2011
on 4AD and Jagjaguwar

Bon Iver, Bon Iver is an ambitious piece of work that marks not only the evolution of Justin Vernon and his band musically, but also emotionally.  While For Emma, Forever Ago was a raw and bare-boned type of album this sophomore release is far from the Bon Iver everyone came to know and love on his first release, but this rebirth of sound is an incredibly pleasing one.  Vernon's distinguished falsetto rings through amongst dense textures of sound in each track in a way that all sort of intertwines as an experimental, R&B, easy listening, soul, folk record.  The lyrics are just as strong and pertinent as they were on For Emma but my small qualm is that they're rather unintelligible while being sung by Vernon.  By no means am I saying that it's a large detractor from the album because like I said the lyrics are still incredibly powerful regardless of whether you need to be looking at a lyric sheet or not.  "Say nothing, that's enough for me", Vernon croons on "Holocene", the album has a familiar theme with it's lyrics that get you emotionally attached to every song, you get the feeling like Vernon really had something to say and knew exactly how he wanted it to be said.  In the same song he sings "And I at once knew I was not magnificent", quite frankly the world couldn't disagree more.  It's incredibly fulfilling to hear an artist grow as much as Bon Iver has over the past few years, especially when you can still hear bits of his old style sprawled about the album but with a new take on it, much like towards the end of "Minnesota, WI" when Vernon is spilling his heart out over a banjo riff that's meshing itself with a saxophone part as well.  From For Emma to working with Kanye, to Gayngs, Vernon has truly become a type of artist that I'm sure nobody would have pegged him as with the release of his debut effort.  I only see great things coming in the future for Bon Iver.

Rating: 9/10
Standout Tracks: "Holocene", "Perth", "Calgary"

Justin Vernon's second outing under the Bon Iver moniker is a 40-minute headrush. Having evolved the dense layering and intertwining melodies of his debut album For Emma, Forever Ago to new extremes of intricacy, Vernon has meticulously crafted Bon Iver, Bon Iver into a true opus. Each note seems specifically placed to create a perfect unison with every other part of the vast soundscapes that sprawl across the album's ten tracks. The level of composition required to achieve the singularity of sound heard in each song is no small feat. From the get-go to the final fading notes, nothing here feels out of place. It's a record as moving and emotionally involving as For Emma (both sonically and lyrically) expressed with a newfound clarity and focus. Justin Vernon has proved himself again that he is one of the most dedicated and talented musicians around today, and has produced a sophomore work that will go down as a classic.

Rating: 10/10
Standout tracks: "Minnesota, WI", "Beth/Rest", "Wash."

For Emma, Forever Ago was a perfect album. Musically and lyrically, there were no complaints to be had about Bon Iver's debut. The minimalist song structure and the raw, powerful, emotion that Just Vernon was able to craft while locked away in a cabin was breathtaking and a truly unique. It's pleasant, then, to hear his evolution as an artist.While his adroit and talented musical mind sets to work on a different style, it's refreshing to hear the glimmers of what is very obviously, at its core, a solid Bon Iver album.Though the expansive atmospheres he crafts here replace the sparse guitar/vocal mixes on his first album, he approaches each with a high degree of intricacy and care; there's a real feeling on this album that there's not a note out of place. While a classic by any standard, Bon Iver, Bon Iver, lacks the j'nais sais quoi that made For Emma one of the best releases of the past twenty years. He expertly expanded his sound and took a small step away from the exquisite, singular beauty of For Emma. That is not to say I dislike the sound, or detest the album, because quite the opposite is true. It is a fantastic album, one I'd been excited about for awhile and the meticulous ways he's expanded his sound are truly a testament to his ability to craft impeccable songs time and time again.

Rating: 8.9/10
Standout Tracks: "Towers, " "Hinnom, TX," "Minnesota, WI"

Final Verdict:  9.3/10

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