Album Review: Bon Iver - Bon Iver

Genre: Folk/Indie
Origin: Eau Claire, Wisconsin

As the lyrics to the first track on the album “Perth” go, Bon Iver is “breaking new ground” with their second full-length album, inviting us to join them in exploring new sonic territories. “Perth” summons our attention with its war-like drumbeat. Departing from extensive use of acoustic guitar, Bon Iver still offers us a dreamy and smooth breath of relaxation with this album. The first track alone is like waking up rested and ready to take on the day.

Bon Iver has grown from their first album and their development as a group is demonstrated through their eponymous album. With each song flowing effortlessly into the next, this album is guaranteed to satisfy, if not, surpass the expectations of fans, with a deliverance of more intricate song progressions, still holding onto their minimalist roots, such as in the second track “Minnesota, WI.”

With the refrain “never gonna break” repeated throughout the song, “Minnesota, WI” offers a struggle and overcoming, with delicate finger-picking and saxophone, coming together seamlessly. It sounds like water dribbling down a brook, celebrating the beauty of simplicity.

“Holocene,” the third, and longest track on the album is the perfect representation of what this album’s all about. It returns to the Bon Iver we once knew and cherished yet reveals a growth, a maturity that only comes with time and reflection. Listening to this song is like riding along a peaceful journey toward whatever the listener most desires, a quest for self-identity, peace of mind, love, stability, family and friendship, it all comes together in this song. This song is like realizing how small a person is in the world and letting the knowledge become empowering, as when Vernon croons, “and at once I knew I was not magnificent.”

This album is nourishing to the soul. It shows off what Bon Iver can do, even what you may not expect. With such tracks as “Towers” more upbeat and with a faster tempo most Bon Iver songs yet executed just as well. “Hinnom, TX” on the other hand might have took the experimentation a little too far, but it’s still better than the average crap we hear on the radio these days. “Calgary” chosen as the first single, does exemplify the departure to a new kind of sound for this album, yet other tracks drown it out in their power and magnitude.

And just when you think the album starts to lose momentum, “Wash.” saves it and once again, delivers what fans crave from Bon Iver. A stripped down sound, leaving the bare essentials, echoing, traversing through the inner workings of the mind, coming out the other side with a new perspective. “Wash.” is the ah-ha moment, when the light bulb goes off and one has a sudden realization, an epiphany. Just like “Bon Iver” plays on the French term “good winter,” this track hones in on the fragility of new life, renewal, among the desolation of a long winter, in a barren field.

Approaching the last song "Beth/Rest," listeners may be surprised at how out of place this track feels. This is the kind of song one could imagine playing at the end credits of a cheesy '80s or '90s romance film. In addition to and may be as a result of that, when the song/album ends, it leaves off on a question mark without much resolution. It kind of leaves you hanging and questioning if this is really the end of such a (for the most part) solid record. Despite this, when it ends the album and some of the more memorable moments linger in the mind leaving the listener wanting more. But don’t worry, fans and first-time listeners; if this is only the second album for Bon Iver, imagine what’s in store for the future.


Bon Iver - "Holocene"

Bon Iver - "Calgary"

Bon Iver's full-length second album is available now from indie record label Jagjaguwar.


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