Upon first listen to Blood Bank, the latest release by the Justin Vernon-masterminded group Bon Iver, it’s easy to draw comparisons to JagJaguwar label mates Okkervil River.
Vernon’s talent at songwriting is evident on the title track as he tells the peculiar story of a couple that meets at a blood blank, teasing the listener with muted guitar, violins and a dropping and re-appearing bass beat before breaking into a Neil Young-esque guitar solo that closes the song. The slow slide guitar on “Beach Baby” does nothing to curb the sonic similarities between Bon Iver and Okkervil River, and the brief song feels more like an interlude than a stand-alone track.
The rush of piano in “Babys,” which celebrates the coming of summer, is the only accompaniment provided for Vernon’s vocals and, really, it’s all that’s needed. The last track, “Woods” uses a lot of vocal synthesizing and winds up sounding a little too much like Imogen Heap for comfort, but features some impressive vocal performances nonetheless, and to their credit, sounds nothing like Okkervil River.
Though very little seems to cohere between the four tracks on this EP, Blood Bank does a good job at showcasing the diverse talents of Vernon and should leave listeners anxious for a full length follow up.
Download: “Blood Bank”