Bon Iver brings listeners home
The newest release from Bon Iver had a lot to live up to after the quiet genius displayed on 2007’s “For Emma, Forever Ago.” It wasn’t until the free streaming of the self-titled album hit the web and its final June 21 release that fans could rest assured Justin Vernon’s new effort would be more than able to hold its own against his past work, and maybe even have a chance at surpassing it.
The album opens with “Perth,” a song that slightly deviates from what Bon Iver fans have heard before. The step he takes towards more bold instrumentation, while a change for Vernon (who is Bon Iver’s only permanent fixture), shows his range as a musician.
The drum-line sounding backing gives the song a unique sound when juxtaposed with the resonant instruments and Vernon’s haunting vocals. It is a promising way to start the album and will leave listeners curious as to how Vernon will come to blend what they hear on this track with the folkier tones they came to know on “For Emma.”
The following two tracks, “Minnesota, WI” and “Holoscene” sound a little more like what has been heard from Bon Iver in the past. “Minnesota” features the banjo which fans came to know and love on “Lump Sum” while “Holoscene” returns listeners to the gentle instrumentation and soft yet commanding vocals found on songs like “Flume” and “Re: Stacks.”
Lyrically, the album is superior to “For Emma.” While that release had touching lyrics, those on “Bon Iver” are less obvious and seem more drawn from Vernon’s personal feelings, rather than just being traditional, though beautifully crafted, love songs.
“Wash” is this album’s stand-out. While it is a quiet piano-ballad, Vernon also paints a beautiful picture with his blend of music and lyrics. It is this song above all that is the most haunting and will leave listeners in awe of Vernon’s ability to both convey his own emotions and invite them to embrace their own.
The album’s closing song “Beth/Rest” could not be more different than the rest of the album. Upon first listen, it sounds almost like it is a 90s song someone decided to play acoustically. It is only later that it becomes clear just how beautiful and skillfully-crafted the track actually is. Listeners just have to let it grow on them, which it eventually will.
Out of the album’s ten tracks, six have names that also happen to be places and others make reference to locations (Milwaukee is regularly called out on “Holoscene”). The residents of these places should be proud that something as beautiful as “Bon Iver” will make their homes unforgettable in the minds—and hearts—of anyone who listens to the album.
Alyana Alfaro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.