If there was a jumping off point in trying to predict the sound of Bon Iver’s self-titled sophomore album, it probably came with the numerous live recordings of the touring incarnation of the band covering the Outfield’s “Your Love” back in 2009. But it isn’t as simple as that either. While Bon Iver certainly owes its sonics to an appreciation of some of the key points of 80s pop instrumentation, it also inhabits a weird netherworld where visages of folk, atmospheric and spacey pop, and a country-imbued somnambulance all find hold in the song structure.

Even so, there’s a lot here to connect Bon Iver with its predecessor – Vernon’s singing is pretty recognizable at this point; his song structure is pretty identifiable as well – but the differences become apparent only a minute and a half into opener “Perth.” The martial and machine-gun percussion is reminiscent of the prog-influenced pop of the late 70s/early 80s – there will be Phil Collins/Peter Gabriel references abound in reviews, I’m sure – as are the synth-sounding bass and soft horns.

There’s less space in the music this time around though. One of the best things about For Emma, Forever Ago was its silence. Vernon was able to create vast spaces behind minimalist guitar and voice, even when both were active, that recreated the environment of his, now fabled, isolated Wisconsin cabin. This time that space is filled with small, intricate noises and nuanced swells and fades. It’s almost as if he stepped out of the cabin and into the wilderness at nighttime, deciding to map the billions of bright stars that appeared in the light pollutionless sky and the myriad noise of the forest at rest.

This is a fuller Bon Iver than the one to which we were first introduced. Bon Iver plays like a genre exercise in a decade, but it’s far deeper than the sum of its surface parts. It’s a massively successful follow-up to a massively successful debut mainly because it kept its soul intact while moving out from its insular world. words/ j neas

MP3: Bon Iver :: Calgary
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7 Responses to “Bon Iver :: Bon Iver”

  1. great review

  2. finally, no one talked about kanye west.

  3. No talk of lyrics?
    I’ve listened to the album a few times but don’t particularly remember a lyric. His words move well with the music, but yeah, strange that there’s not too much mention of his lyrics as they were an important part of the last one.

  4. Bon Iver is actually a good follow-up from their For Emma, Forever Ago. The new album sounds very relaxing, in a very good, Bon Iver kind of way. This is one of the best things about this band—-even in silence or instrumentals, they are already saying a lot. Calgary is my most favorite track in this album.

  5. […] here: Bon Iver :: S/T « Gay Pride Festival and Parade 2011 Matt Sweeney :: The AD Interview » […]

  6. […] Howard: We have a lot of touring to do (w/ Bon Iver), but I don’t know what the next set of songs will sound like.  I mean, after seeing Bon […]

  7. A nitpick: it’s actually officially titled Bon Iver, Bon Iver, as stated by Justin Vernon himself.

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