Bon Iver came onto the scene in 2008 with a whisper "” their album For Emma, Forever Ago was replete with spare, haunting songs that chilled the blood and produced goosebumps. It was magnificent. So the news that Justin Vernon's band was at long last producing a follow-up led to goosebumps of another kind: anticipation.
Bon Iver, Bon Iver, their sophomore album, does not slink its way into your circulatory system in the same manner as For Emma. The band has taken a step away from its barebones sound, adding layers of horns and slide guitars to delicate finger picking (and even harmonies!) to Vernon's trademark falsetto. Bon Iver, Bon Iver does not have the same arresting emotional impact as its predecessor, nor does it try to. While For Emma was Vernon's own attempt to exorcise demons, Bon Iver, Bon Iver has a new vein of maturity and self-ownership. This album warms from within.
Some tracks are more successful than others, of course. "Wash." begins with that poignant falsetto and a lulling, simple two-chord piano progression, slowly building with swelling violin. The sound does not climax, but it doesn't need to "” the musical layers wrap around you subtly and completely. "Michicant" makes use of the same violins, adding depth to a simple acoustic guitar melody with the surprising presence of a bicycle bell and echoing percussion. "Beth/Rest," the album's final track, takes things a bit too far "” with synths and guitar solos worthy of a John Hughes movie, Vernon's delicate voice is the only thing separating the track from being a Genesis song.
"Minnesota, WI" is a prime example of their new sound gone good. Opening with a rollicking, almost reggae beat and vocals similar to those found in TV On The Radio, the song turns into a rich tapestry of horns and slide guitar, forcing you to wait for Vernon's falsetto. The song, similar to the album itself, is well worth the wait.
Bon Iver's official release date is June 21. Check out another preview here -- we covered the single "Calgary" as Song of the Day.