Bon Iver - Bon Iver
Bon Iver Image

Universal acclaim - based on 43 Critics What's this?

User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 208 Ratings

Your Score
0 out of 10
Rate this:
  • 10
  • 9
  • 8
  • 7
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 1
  • 0
  • 0
  • Summary: The Wisconsin-based indie folk band, fronted by singer-songwriter Justin Vernon, follows up its highly acclaimed For Emma, Forever Ago with a new album.
  • Record Label: Jagjaguwar
  • Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Indie Folk
  • More Details and Credits »
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 40 out of 43
  2. Negative: 0 out of 43
  1. Jun 24, 2011
    he 10 unconventionally structured songs are less shaky-tent-in-a-snowstorm and more ambitious-skyscraper-blasting-into-the sky.
  2. Jun 20, 2011
    It's a rare thing for an album to have such a strong sense of what it wants to be. Bon Iver is about flow, from one scene and arrangement and song and memory and word into the next-- each distinct but connected-- all leading to "Beth/Rest".
  3. Aug 3, 2011
    Akin to For Emma, Bon Iver breaks the listener's heart. And to experience an album (an oft-dreaded sophomore album, no less) that evokes such deep emotion is a welcomed pain.
  4. Jun 7, 2011
    The Wisconsin outsider stretches horizons on mesmeric second album. [July 2011, p. 108]
  5. Jun 23, 2011
    Few albums are truly perfect though, and Bon Iver is not without its flaw.
  6. Jun 20, 2011
    This is a brave and emboldening record in a frightened world.
  7. May 25, 2011
    Like Radiohead and Panda Bear before Bon Iver this year, it's not a problem that Vernon hasn't created music in the same style of the last successful album: the problem is that he isn't able to make that creative jump to a new aesthetic, or direction, successfully at all.

See all 43 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 44 out of 56
  2. Negative: 4 out of 56
  1. Jun 21, 2011
    Occasionally, an album comes along and grows into the soundtrack of a specific time and place. Summer, autumn, winter or spring. A particular road trip, adventure or vacation. Love, hate, happiness or sadness. They become the touchstone triggers of our nostalgia, leading our memories down the paths of our past and present. Those albums we could consider "great."

    But what do you classify something better than that? For that you'll have to ask Justin Vernon. Because Bon Iver's long-awaited sophomore album isn't just 10 songs with atmosphere, it's a vacation in the stratosphere. It's not just a step forward, but a mad dash on the back of a Scud missile. This album isn't just good, it's great. And it's as close to perfection as you can get before being burned.

    It's been a busy and fruitful three years for Vernon. He struck critical gold with 2008's "For Emma, Forever Ago," a sparse and haunting LP recorded in a freezing backwoods cabin following a breakup with someone presumably named Emma. The album's romantic backstory, coupled with its innovative minimalism, made it incredibly popular throughout indie circles, eventually garnering low spots on many "best of the 2000s" lists.

    If "Emma" was the bitter cold of a blizzard, follow-up EP "Blood Bank" captured the warmth of a cabin fire. In many ways "Blood Bank" was an artistic advancement. Using quicker, shorter steps, it covered much of the same ground - without excess baggage. Then Vernon spent three weeks with Kanye West working on 10 songs that would go toward West's magnum opus, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy." Bon Iver's "Woods" would even be the main sample for that album's epic closer, "Lost in the World."

    Each song on "Bon Iver" crafts an ambient atmosphere both individualistic and homogeneous to the album's greater arc. Footprints of "Blood Bank" and "Emma" can be found here on "Michicant" and "Hinnom, TX." But "Bon Iver" comes with a noticeable influence from the time Vernon spent collaborating with Kanye.

    The minimal sparseness that endeared critics to "Emma" is now replaced with synths, drum rolls, guitars and horns. Songs like "Perth" and "Towers" are beautifully convoluted in their arrangement. Yet as the instrumentation is piled on, it never becomes overwhelming. There is a Spector-esque wall of sound on "Bon Iver," but it is held in check by tasteful moderation.

    Lead single "Calgary" is the album's pre-eminent exposition of electric guitars and drums. Another example of Vernon's vocal talent, it's the most fitting homage to the western Canadian province since Gordon Lightfoot's "Alberta Bound."

    And then there's "Beth/Rest," the album's most enjoyable anomaly. A sprawling masterpiece overwhelmingly influenced by "The Way It Is"-era Bruce Hornsby, "Beth/Rest" is the album's crescendo. The last hurrah of the journey started on "Perth" and finished 40 all-too-quick minutes later.

    "Beth/Rest" goes beyond the album to symbolize Vernon himself. For many of his fans, channeling Bruce Hornsby seems an ironic gesture - a bow to the subset of indie culture that bastardizes nostalgia they never experienced with a sarcasm that degrades its intrinsic value. But there is nothing ironic about Bon Iver or Justin Vernon. From "Mandolin Rain"-inspired songs to performing Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" on prime time television, Vernon has proven himself the antithesis of an ironist. He might be the darling of indie culture, but he's not wearing his nostalgia because it's funny.

    In an era dictated by the amount of glitter and mascara on a performer's face, or their ability to push envelopes toward commercial dividends, "Bon Iver" is not an album that 2011 deserves. But it's certainly one that our culture of reboots and copycats needs. It's not just a great album. It's an album that defines the idea of music's potential, and highlights that potential's limitlessness. It shows us what a generation weened on the culture of yore can still achieve on its own accord.

    "Bon Iver" splits the difference between restraint and excess, and in the process finds a healthy ambition often lacking in so many sophomore albums. It takes what was and uses it to move toward what could be. It is the musical version of what James Earl Jones meant in "Field of Dreams" when he said baseball "reminds of us of all that once was good and could be again." In the land of Madonna copycats and misplaced sax solos, there is finally an album giving us hope that the heart of musical originality beats on.
  2. Dec 7, 2011
    Even better than the last album. Less hidden in the woods, more in the open, with bits and piece from a wide range of influences and sounds. This is not an album that can be labeled as one thing. It is plural, and it is good ! Expand
  3. Feb 20, 2013
    Yes, Bon Iver did it again. An improvement from their previous album. With soothing and ambient settings in the songs, this is their best. Original and trying something new, I did not expect it to be that good. But now, my mind is set. Perth was a great song, starting with a arm-style movement, followed by soothing sounds in Minnesota, WI. Holocene is calm and gentle, followed by Towers and Michicant respectively, all calm and nice. Then there was the best moment, Hinnom, TX. 'And in Hinnom'. The best song ever. The greatest experimentation with superb vocals. Then the seabreeze Wash., calm tensions. Then Calgary, a nice emotional song. Follow by Lisbon, OH and Beth/Rest, the final ending worth listening. The best album of that year. And Hinnom, TX, the best song ever! Expand
  4. Jun 29, 2011
    A very relaxing, nicely composed album. This album has been an enjoyable listen every time. Not quite as good as "For Emma, Forever Ago," his first album, but that is a very high standard to live up to. He really delivered with this album. Expand
  5. Dec 13, 2011
    What a strange little album. It's quite different from anything I've heard before or religiously listen to, but all the good reviews and hearing the infectious beginning of "Perth" accompanied with its deluxe music video got me to purchase this album. The first time I listened to it, I remember feeling like I was floating, entranced in a blissful state. It sounds so beautiful and though Justin Vernon's falsetto tone cracks at times, it belongs with the music well. I love how he can go from such a high pitch to one so low and atmospheric that it vibrates your brain like on "Minnesota, WI". Every song is more gorgeous than the last, highlights including "Perth", "Holocene", "Towers", "Michicant", and "Calgary". The only overall problem I have with this album is that most of the time I can't understand a lick of what Justin is saying. This might be just me, but he mumbles a lot through these songs. I have printed out the lyrics though, and they'll aid me in my next Bon Iver listening session. I am glad I purchased this gem, because there are certainly none like it and "Holocene" is just too beautiful to pass up. I haven't really gotten into "Beth/Rest" yet, but maybe actually knowing what the lyrics are will aid me. Expand
  6. Nov 9, 2011
    Although this record doesn't have the same magic the For Emma.. one thing that has to be acknowledged is Bon Iver's refusal to dish out the same again. The production feels a bit soulless and it just lacks the spirit that was present in its predecessor. Overall it's still a very good record but the first half of it is much stronger than the second. It really fades off into limbo a bit towards the end. It will be very interesting to see where this band goes next. Expand
  7. Jun 21, 2011
    Justin! I want to hear your voice reverb over and over. I suppose I'll be happy, as long as, people stop citing Vernon as a great songwriter (comparisons to Dylan??) In a year or two no one will probably mention this album or even be listening to it - until the next indie masterpiece! Expand

See all 56 User Reviews

Related Articles

  1. Metacritic Users Pick the Best of 2011

    Metacritic Users Pick the Best of 2011 Image
    Published: January 9, 2012
    The results are in! We've tallied your votes for the best movie, TV show, video game, album, and song of 2011. Find out which titles our users preferred inside...
  2. The Best Albums of 2011

    The Best Albums of 2011 Image
    Published: December 30, 2011
    We reveal our official list of the best-reviewed albums of 2011. Plus, get links to stream virtually all of our top albums, find out which LPs our users preferred, and see which 2011 releases scored the lowest with critics.
  3. 2011 Music Critic Top Ten Lists [Updated Jan. 7]

    2011 Music Critic Top Ten Lists [Updated Jan. 7] Image
    Published: November 29, 2011
    Between now and January, we'll be collecting top 10 lists published by major music critics, publications, and websites, and tallying their cumulative picks to determine the best albums of 2011. Check back here daily to get an updated scorecard.
  4. Midyear Report: The Best Music of 2011 So Far

    Midyear Report: The Best Music of 2011 So Far Image
    Published: July 6, 2011
    With half of 2011 in the books, it's time to check on the year's best music so far. And which album tops our chart so far? It won't cost you anything to find out.
  5. June's Best New Music

    June's Best New Music Image
    Published: June 30, 2011
    The past month's best new albums include the sophomore set from Bon Iver and the debut from Sub Pop's first hip-hop signing. Find out more about June's best releases and listen to tracks from each one.
  6. Summer Music Preview: 25 Key Upcoming Albums

    Summer Music Preview: 25 Key Upcoming Albums Image
    Published: May 10, 2011
    We've selected 25 of the biggest albums arriving between now and September, including new discs from Death Cab for Cutie, Lady Gaga, My Morning Jacket, Lil Wayne, Jane's Addiction, and more. Plus, listen to full tracks from each album.