Bon Iver / Bon Iver / JagJaguwar
Fun fact: Bon Iver, led by Wisconsin singer-songwriter Justin Vernon, was the third group to ever be featured on BLARE (following the release of their Blood Bank EP). Back with its first release since then, the group’s second album takes listeners on a surreal cross-continental journey to some isolated and imagined corners of North America. “Hinnom, TX” and “Minnesota, WI” are just two of the many place names used as song titles on the album – though whether either of them are real places is up for debate. Regardless of whether the locations Vernon takes us to are real or not, the situations are intimate and poetically described. Secret camp fires. Stormy lakes. Thin fingers of fog slipping between tree branches like mischievous spirits. Vernon’s real talent throughout the album is his ability to capture and put to music these vivid emotional experiences in nature, or on the road. His epiphanies, his personal moments of Zen – they’re all there, as on “Holocene” – in the form of persistent snare rolls, elegant guitar licks and some ambient strings and horns for good measure.
Not to mention Vernon’s lyrics, often a tad opaque, but just as often right on the money – showing and not telling (“At once I knew I was not magnificent / High above the highway aisle, jagged vacancy, thick with ice / I could see for miles, miles, miles”). The opening tracks have the sort of vocal hooks that make the titles of the songs irrelevant. “Perth”, with its heartfelt chorus becomes the “still alive for you” love-song. “Minnesota, WI” becomes the “never gonna break” song for the same reason. The schmaltz level gets turned up a bit too high on the album closing “Beth / Rest” however, which sounds like a Phil Collins-led ‘80s-era Aid For Africa charity tune. For all of those worried about how expensive driving has gotten, Bon Iver makes a pretty convincing argument for stay-cations. Beauty is everywhere – even Lisbon, Ohio.
Download: “Perth”, “Holocene”
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