- 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 »
|Some way, baby, it's part of me, apart from me You're laying waste to Halloween You fucked it friend, it's on its head, it struck the street You're...||See the rest of the song lyrics|
Q MagazineJun 7, 2011The Wisconsin outsider stretches horizons on mesmeric second album. [July 2011, p. 108]
May 25, 2011Like 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.
Jun 21, 2011Occasionally, 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.… Expand
Dec 21, 2011amazing album. The self-titled album is more than likely what Justin Vernon wanted to do originally with his first album, For Emma, Foreveramazing album. The self-titled album is more than likely what Justin Vernon wanted to do originally with his first album, For Emma, Forever Ago. He considered those songs demos until they exploded on the internet and on various television shows +1 perfect!… Expand
Mar 7, 2016I am late here. I clearly remember the days leading up to the release of this album, five years on. The sound of For Emma, Forever Ago wasI am late here. I clearly remember the days leading up to the release of this album, five years on. The sound of For Emma, Forever Ago was still haunting me in a way. Every song, every line, every note, Bon Iver's debut opened my mind in a way no other album has. It really grows on you.
But I'm not going to talk about that one now. This is about Bon Iver, the long-awaited (for me, for me) second album of Justin Vernon's project. I remember a friend telling me: "Have you heard Bon Iver's new album, it has great drums". It was a simple conversation, the album HAS great drums, and singing, and songwriting, and keyboards, and pianos, and guitars, and basses.....sorry I let myself go there. But that's what it is, great, in every sense of the word. It is a whole damn trip. A trip full of emotion, and that sounds common, but it is, it makes you feel, the perfect arrangements, the haunting melodies and Justin's voice, that in a way does not change much from the previous album, but here it sounds free, instead of painful.
What else should I say? Is difficult to explain the way my brain reacts when I hear Towers first chords, and then it changes, the same with Holocene or Calgary or Wash, even Hinnom is not my usual kind of song with its ethereal voice and quirky choruses, but I love it. And let's talk about Beth/Rest: in the worst opinions you can read comparisons with Enya, and this song, which is the one that most resembles the once-famous singer, it is worlds apart from that because it is a pop song, but not with that focus in changing and growing, but with its idea focused in making you feel, whatever you want, think whatever you want and that's it, that's how the album finishes. Talking about a great conclusion.
Come on, did you think I am finished? Ok, just something more. Even the freaking cover is great. Ok, that is subjective, and I know, this is my opinion, obviously the music is also subjective, but if you have respect for songwriting and music made in a unique way, just give it a listen. Yeah, five years later, whatever. (Maybe you'll realize you have lost five years of pure enjoyment, ok I'm just kidding) (But think about it). (Seriously).
(Did I mentioned that Bon Iver is a freaking nine piece?) Ok, now I'm finished.… Expand
Jul 26, 2011Absolutely 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
Jan 11, 2016This is such an important album to me. Lyrically, complex yet deeply personal. Justin struck gold. "Holocene" is the bands best. FantasticThis is such an important album to me. Lyrically, complex yet deeply personal. Justin struck gold. "Holocene" is the bands best. Fantastic balance of sound and so well strung together.… Expand
Apr 3, 2014It's still good, though. I really really love Bon Iver's music. However, this album just gives this impression that Justin Vernon was betterIt's still good, though. I really really love Bon Iver's music. However, this album just gives this impression that Justin Vernon was better off by himself.… Expand
Jun 21, 2011Justin! 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
Published: November 29, 2011Between 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.
Published: May 10, 2011We'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.
Awards & Rankings
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|Proof - BTS|
|Big Time - Angel Olsen|
|Forever on My Mind - Son House|
|Colder Streams - The Sadies|
|Last Night in the Bittersweet - Paolo Nutini|
|This Is a Photograph - Kevin Morby|
|For You Who Are the Wronged - Kathryn Joseph|
|Jack in the Box - J-Hope|
|Electricity - Ibibio Sound Machine|
|Wet Leg - Wet Leg|
|Live at the El Mocambo - The Rolling Stones|