Bon Iver – Bon Iver

Album Review by Paul Neeson | 31 May 2011
Album title: Bon Iver
Artist: Bon Iver
Label: 4AD
Release date: 20 Jun

Finding overnight fame through his wildly romanticised, critically embraced debut For Emma, Forever Ago, Justin Vernon’s sudden elevation to folk messiah placed a great weight upon the shoulders of the humble Wisconsin troubadour. Three years on, Vernon has returned with this ten-song second album under the Bon Iver guise, showing no signs of an artist under pressure. Although recently dubbed a lyrical ‘extension’ of For Emma by the man himself, sonically he has undertaken a daringly bold, ultimately brilliant reinvention.

Opener Perth slowly unveils this new direction, building from Vernon’s trademark falsetto and shimmering guitar to an unexpectedly bombastic end, complete with a cavalry march of brass, thunderous percussion and a snarling riff. But it’s the brazen gamble of closer Beth/Rest’s chintzy Casio-chimes and shimmering soundtrack-sax that seals Bon Iver‘s boldest statement. Between these defining points Vernon leads us through heights ranging from the hypnotic piano loop of Wash and unashamed romance of Calgary’s heart-searing strings, to the subtle experimentation of Lisbon, OH’s cut-up vocal and electro-textures.

In facing great expectations, Vernon has simply turned and walked away from the legacy of his debut; rather than attempt to emulate the intimate cabin fever of that album, he has crafted an expansive and ambitious piece – a compelling listen from start to finish. Sounds like his time spent with Kanye jolted something loose.

Playing The Usher Hall, Edinburgh on 22 Oct