Bon Iver

Bon Iver Image
Metascore
86

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

User Score
8.6

Universal acclaim- based on 279 Ratings

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  • 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.
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  • 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
    100
    he 10 unconventionally structured songs are less shaky-tent-in-a-snowstorm and more ambitious-skyscraper-blasting-into-the sky.
  2. Jun 20, 2011
    95
    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
    90
    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. Q Magazine
    Jun 7, 2011
    80
    The Wisconsin outsider stretches horizons on mesmeric second album. [July 2011, p. 108]
  5. Jun 23, 2011
    80
    Few albums are truly perfect though, and Bon Iver is not without its flaw.
  6. Jun 20, 2011
    80
    This is a brave and emboldening record in a frightened world.
  7. May 25, 2011
    40
    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: 49 out of 62
  2. Negative: 4 out of 62
  1. Jun 21, 2011
    10
    Occasionally, an album comes along and grows into the soundtrack of a specific time and place. Summer, autumn, winter or spring. A particularOccasionally, 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.
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  2. Dec 18, 2011
    10
    I honestly didn't think For Emma could be beat, but this self-titled gem showed just how much more Justin Vernon is capable of. As a saxI honestly didn't think For Emma could be beat, but this self-titled gem showed just how much more Justin Vernon is capable of. As a sax player, I have some serious appreciation for his use of the Bass Saxophone (played by awesome Canadian Jazz man, Colin Stetson), and Bon Iver's use of horns in general. This album somehow seamlessly weaves jazz and folk music without sounding either elitist or hokey. The only out of place song for me was Beth/Rest, reminding me a bit too much of 80's Christian artist, Michael W Smith... but it actually grew on me somehow. A lovely record that will find a home in my living room and on my headphones for a long time to come. Expand
  3. Oct 10, 2013
    10
    This is a very easy review to write. Bon Iver has created another great album. The music of Bon Iver is possibly the best music in history, soThis is a very easy review to write. Bon Iver has created another great album. The music of Bon Iver is possibly the best music in history, so that's all there is to say about it. Hope Justin Vernon comes out with more! Expand
  4. Jul 26, 2011
    9
    Absolutely stunning album. While listening to this second full length album from Bon Iver, there is a sense of space and atmosphere that isAbsolutely stunning album. While listening to this second full length album from Bon Iver, there is a sense of space and atmosphere that is very difficult to explain. This sense can only be felt from listening to the entire album; start to finish. Overall, it is an unreal album that needs to be listened! 9/10 Expand
  5. Jan 25, 2012
    9
    Bon Iver's sophomore album sounds like Justin Vernon coming out of the woods and out of the "For Emma, Forever Ago" stage. Bon Iver isBon Iver's sophomore album sounds like Justin Vernon coming out of the woods and out of the "For Emma, Forever Ago" stage. Bon Iver is officially a band that needs to be reckoned with. The instrumentals swoon on this album. Justin Vernon's falsetto is just as gorgeous, if not more, than For Emma. Bon Iver, Bon Iver may not be as fantastic as their debut album, but it's pretty damn close. A- Expand
  6. Jul 31, 2012
    8
    Bon Iver's second, self-titled release brings out warm, wintry, sipping-hot-cocoa-in-a-log-cabin feelings, but manages to balance them withBon Iver's second, self-titled release brings out warm, wintry, sipping-hot-cocoa-in-a-log-cabin feelings, but manages to balance them with fits of torrential emotion that is what truly defines the release. There is evidence of a matured artist here and their craft really speaks for itself. Expand
  7. Jun 21, 2011
    0
    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 songwriterJustin! 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 62 User Reviews

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