Bon Iver, or Justin Vernon as his parents named him is one of those artists, (think ‘The xx’ or ‘Foals’) that you either love or just don’t ‘get’. For his new record Vernon has abandoned the log cabin he used for recording ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ back in 2008, and replaced it with another equally un-orthodox ‘studio’ – a converted swimming pool attached to a veterinarians office.
Recent converts to Bon were likely won off the back of his recent collaborations on Kanye West’s ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ album, but as a solo artist this record sees him move away from the misery ridden songs of his debut effort with a terrific and progressive step forward.
Opener ‘Perth’ is as good a place to start as any, the sounds of civil war forged together with only peaceful instruments from drums to trumpets. The end result is something hauntingly lush to the ears.
It could be the sound of him making peace with the world and the record continues to play out (for its most part) in a similar fashion, wonderfully layered songs containing everything from African-derived guitars to military drum rolls cross-woven with auto-tuned vocals that ebb and flow like one hugely thought-provoking day dream.
‘Holocene’ shows more bite as Vernon pours “you fucked it friend, it’s on its head, it struck the street”, which sounds slighty out of place on such a calm and bursting-into-blossom track. You will have another listen just to check if you heard it right.
The die hard’s that clasped hold of Vernon’s debut may struggle to cope with single ‘Calgary’, as it rides the big 80’s synth wave and drums that rumble like a distant back-drop, but this is nothing compared to album closer ‘Beth/Rest’ which could have been the sound-track to any number of 1980’s movies that involved losing a girl, conquering your problems then winning the girl back.
To hear so many saxophones is strange coming from a musician who isn’t Lady Gaga or a Eurovision song contest entry, but like all of Vernon’s work it is executed flawlessly and ends the album on a high.
If ‘For Emma’ was the sound of Winter ‘Bon Iver’ is the sound of Spring and boy does it smell good.
Now I’m just left wondering where he will record his ‘Summer’ record.
More info www.boniver.org