Bon Iver Review

artist: Bon Iver date: 06/20/2011 category: compact discs
Bon Iver: Bon Iver
Released: Jun 20, 2011
Genre: Folk, Indie Rock
Label: Jagjaguwar, 4AD)
Number Of Tracks: 10
This is Bon Iver's second album release. Bon Iver is kind of like a Siren... If Sirens were beard-y guys with a fascination for cold weather and singing in a lilting voice.
 Sound: 8.5
 Lyrics: 7.5
 Overall Impression: 8.5
 Overall rating:
 Reviewer rating:
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reviews (2) 9 comments vote for this album:
overall: 6.7
Bon Iver Featured review by: UG Team, on june 20, 2011
1 of 7 people found this review helpful

Sound: This self-titled album is the second full length release by Bon Iver. If you haven't listened to Bon Iver before, the group is the brainchild of Justin Vernon, and is kind of an indie rock type of act. Reading about Justin Vernon, you will learn that he seems to recluse himself to a remote location somewhere cold when he writes songs. What he comes up with is unique compositions, which are very melodic instrumentally and vocally. Justin Vernon tends to sing in a very high lilting register, which has an almost mesmerizing quality, but always begins to be more grating than anything else before I listen to an entire album.

My first impression of the sound of this album is that it could absolutely be the soundtrack to a dark drama or dark comedy. While listening to this album I can absolutely see scenes of a guy sitting in his car in a parking lot in the snow, resting his head on the steering wheel wondering where everything went wrong. The album, in my opinion, has a very relaxed thoughtful mood to it, but at the same time seems sad and just a little dark.

Bon Iver's first album, "For Emma, Forever Ago" seems to have a slightly more raw grit and energy type of feel to it, that "Bon Iver" isn't completely missing, but is missing when compared to the first album. "Bon Iver" does seem to have a much better quality of production without coming off as over produced. I had read that Justin Vernon brought in some outside musicians in order to help him flesh out his songs to help him stay away from becoming that guy singing with an acoustic guitar, but I think I would like him better as "that guy singing with an acoustic guitar". A lot of times throughout the album I felt like the extra peripheral instrumentation was taking more away than it was bringing to the songs. // 7

Lyrics: Trying to make my way through the lyrics of "Bon Iver" was overwhelming. The lyrics seem to transition from literal observations, to metaphorical, to intimate thoughts and back again from line to line. They are all delivered in that lilting almost falsetto voice of Justin Vernon that is mesmerizing at times, and grating at others. As an example, here are some lyrics from the song "Holocene" off the album: "Christmas night, it clutched the light, the hallow bright / above my brother, I and tangled spines / we smoked the screen to make it what it was to be / now to know it in my memory".

I read that Justin Vernon writes his lyrics by first singing a wordless melody and recording it, then listening back to it. While listening back to it, he writes words that fit the melody. I'm not sure how I feel about this lyric writing technique from a poetic standpoint, but you have to admit that the vocal melody on the album is immaculate. // 6

Overall Impression: "Bon Iver", the self-titled album, was my introduction to Bon Iver as a group, and after listening to this album I went back and listened to their first studio album, "For Emma, Forever Ago", and I have to say that I do much prefer their first album. "Bon Iver" is not a bad album, and has several strong songs. The opening song of the album, "Perth", is a very strong song with a nice intro melody and an overall mellow and otherworldly feel to it. The song "Michicant" has a very waltzy feel to it and again a very nice vocal melody. "Beth/Rest" closes the album with a strong vocal melody and prominent peripheral instrumentation. My favorite song on the album would have to be "Calgary", which really seems to be a strong song in all categories. // 7

- Brandon East (c) 2011

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overall: 9.7
Bon Iver Reviewed by: Weeping_Demon7, on june 27, 2011
2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Sound: Anyone who is familiar with "For Emma, For Ever Ago" - Bon Iver's first studio album - will be able to recount the surprisingly sparse (yet completely filling) sound of overlapped guitars and overlapped voices that come together to give the album the signature "hauntingly-enthralling-lovesick" sound.

"Bon Iver" - Bon Iver's second studio album - still achieves this enthralled, indescribable feel that the listener got from "For Emma", but the method to acheive this is in some ways completely opposite.

"Bon Iver" was released almost four years after "For Emma". In the time between the two recordings, Justin Vernon - the singer and principle composer for Bon Iver - had a lot of style-changing experiences including his work with Kanye West and Gayngs. The result is an album that is fundamentally different from the sparse and minimal sounding "For Emma".

"For Emma" was produced with a couple of SM-57s and an 8-track mixer; "Bon Iver" was produced masterfully with ProTools and a dozen-plus accompanying musicians. Someone who is expecting "Bon Iver" to be sonically identical to "For Emma" will be let down.

Whereas, "For Emma"'s sonic foundations were of overlapped acoustic guitars and nihilistic drumming, "Bon Iver" is very dense: songs like "Holcone" feature reverb-laden overdubbed acoustic guitars with synth layers that create this ambient, mystique filled sound, something that is present in all of the songs of the album.

The sonic-qualities of the vocals are similar to "For Emma" in that Justin Vernon uses overdubbed vocals sung at various pitches to create a choir-sounding timbre that compliments the ambient, far-reaching sonics of the rest of the instrumentation.

Some tracks get into an almost rock-category such as the opening track "Perth" which is composed with a "Civil War sounding drum line" complimented with a couple of distorted (yet open, melodic, and slightly euphoric sounding) guitars. Similar to "Perth" are tracks like "Towers", which opens with a guitar - toned similar to "Perth" - and Justin Vernon's choir vocals. The song evolves into a vocal-line being accompanied by a saxophone into a bluegrass-esque/two-time-step style.

A couple of songs - "Hinnom, TX" and the closing track "Beth/Rest" get into an almost experimental/electronic range, yet the folk elements remain. "Beth/Rest" especially has this particurally 80's feel to it, something that reminds me a lot of the work that Justin Vernon did with the alt-rock supergroup Gayngs. // 10

Lyrics: Bon Iver's lyrics are not the most important factor in the songs, they are simply an additional tool for transmitting the emotions that Justin Vernon wishes to pass on.

Therefore, the lyrics are often hard to understand, slurred, and reverb-laden. But this is not a bad thing by any means: somehow the meaning of the songs, the themes, etc. Are still understood.

Most of the songs deal with some variation of love, lovesickness, loss of love, etc. And this is somehow imparted even though the majority of the lyrics are both hard to understand and cryptic.

With that being said, looking at the lyrics in the album booklet, you will find lots of descriptive metaphors. To an untrained or ignorant reader, the lyrics will often seem random or meaningless but they are often allegorical and metaphorical. // 9

Overall Impression: Like said before, the album is in some ways completely opposite of "For Emma, Forever Ago" and yet the same enthralled feeling that "For Emma" gives the listeners remains with "Bon Iver", perhaps to a greater degree.

The way I listen to music, I have a "Best!" playlist which consists of about 600+ songs that are five-starred from my main library. Every single song on the album got all five stars and is on my playlist (the same is true for the songs on "For Emma"). I think that each song is amazingly strong; I do like some more than others, but they are all amazing.

Each song is both explicitly and subliminally different, yet they all flow into one another to make the album a 40 minute sonic adventure that still manages to raise the hairs on the back of your neck, make your eyes slightly water, and send chills down your spine. Like "For Emma", this album is a tonic for sleepless nights, comfort for heartbreak, a catalyst for tears flowing; one of the best albums in my collection. // 10

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