Bon Iver
Bon Iver, Bon Iver


4.5
superb

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
June 21st, 2011 | 49 replies | 4,538 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist


Justin Vernon’s sophomore release Bon Iver, Bon Iver is a flourishing, pastoral folk album that will elevate you to the pristine mountains of northwestern Wisconsin. There, you will find that not only has Vernon prepared another rich and vibrant soundscape for you, but that he has also put some coal on the fire to take the chill off the wintry For Emma gusts that still occasionally leak through the drafty, boarded-up cabin walls. Wrapped in a blanket of comfort and familiarity, your mind begins to drift towards your journey to what has become one of your most beloved destinations: thoughtful isolation.

Trudging down the frost-bitten hills, you see in the valley a quaint white cabin resting gently in a circle of pine trees; they seem to embrace it and offer it protection from the harsh elements of winter. The color of the cabin subtly alludes to the much grander surrounding landscape, a mix of patchy green foliage and snowcapped mountain tops. The picturesque qualities of the image in your mind are enhanced by the gentle acoustic strums of ‘Perth’, which seem to embody the slow thaw of winter occurring all around you. As your footsteps lead you closer to the once distant shack, majestic drum beats echo your every pace in a fashion that is both eloquent and ominous. Like a grand proclamation, the music has announced your arrival to Bon Iver, Bon Iver.

Peering off to your right, a small body of water is visible. The instrumentation temporarily ceases, allowing a tender string serenade to overcome your ears. The lake is a mirror; reflective and lifeless yet, like the pause in the music, strangely uplifting. The acoustic picking in the background starts to take shape again, ringing like chimes composed of icicles. Before you know it, the confident, reigning percussion of ‘Holocene’ causes the frozen mirror to crack, and the formation of miniature icebergs set sail in front of a backlit canvas of sunlight that has just peaked its head through the clouds. The shimmering guitars and angelic vocal harmonies of ‘Towers’ are colossal in their own right, endowing Bon Iver, Bon Iver with a sense of regality and leaving you dumbfounded. Gazing at a true work of art in both music and nature, you proceed along towards your destination with a newfound sense of perspective.

As you take those final steps towards the threshold, you find yourself passing through a cold wave of memories, depression, and self-loathing. The ringing of a bicycle leads you back to the optimism of your childhood, along with your hopes and dreams – some triumphantly reached, and others left by the wayside. The low, fuzzy drum beats of ‘Michican’t’ embody the heartbreak from those abandoned dreams, and the upbeat ‘Hinnom, TX’, complete with glistening synths and echoing falsetto, act as a soundtrack for memories of your most cherished accomplishments. As you put your hand on the doorknob, you realize just how familiar this place is – and that it isn’t even a physical place to begin with. Its beauty isn’t in the woodlands, the sparkling surface of the water, or the clear blue skies…it is in your ability to escape reality, even if just for a moment, and get truly lost in your own mind. That’s why you came here a winter ago, humming along to For Emma and struggling just to hear your own thoughts over the pain emanating from your unrequited love, shattered hopes, and desperate quest to find meaning in life. Now that the snow has melted and the world seems much less depressing, you have come to rediscover that beautifully tragic feeling.

What awaits on the other side of that door is something more beautiful than you ever could have anticipated: acceptance. ‘Wash.’ And ‘Calgary’ hit your entire body with a wave of warm air, and you suddenly feel at home again. It’s the same way For Emma made you feel, but that seems like…well, forever ago. Something has changed, from the sunlight peaking through the shutters to the subtle undertones of contentment. Synths and strings sway liberally, horns blast out joyfully, and Justin Vernon is singing in a delightfully soulful falsetto that, like a warm cup of cocoa in front of the fireplace, has you in a trance. You begin to ask yourself what home really is…is it just some place where we keep all of our shit? Is it made up of four walls and a roof? Or does it transcend things that merely physically exist – and comprise itself of emotions that we attach to certain places? Or maybe home is just an imaginary place – a feeling of acceptance that we chase for our entire lives but never quite find. The pensive echoes of ‘Beth/Rest’ swirl around you, and gently fade away as you realize that none of that matters as long as you know what home means to you. Still wrapped in that blanket, you let out a relieved sigh, sink down into the couch cushion a little more, and put Bon Iver, Bon Iver on for another spin.



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user ratings (1719)
Chart.
4
excellent
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • Jon Day (5)
    Bon Iver's beautiful follow up to For Emma, Forever Ago which sees the band delve into soa...

    Chunky97 (4.5)
    "Bon Iver, Bon Iver" is a beautiful masterpiece, full of wonderful melodies and well-craft...

    JustinVernonBeard (5)
    Beauty, Nature, Passion, and Hope....

    Grant Thomas (5)
    The fuller sound of Bon Iver....

  • garth (5)
    Mr Vernon, you are magnificent....

    doug (4.5)
    Just like a sherbet bomb; sweet on the outer, and brilliant within....

    LudditeStereo (4.5)
    Gorgeous-sounding and elusive, Bon Iver, Bon Iver doesn't have the compelling back story o...

    Griff Fuller Jr. (4)
    Quiet indie folk rock and soundscaping shape an impressive sophomore album....

  • Tom Gellatly (4.5)
    It might not top the (now almost sacred) For Emma, Forever Ago, but Bon Iver's sophomore e...

    Lucid CONTRIBUTOR (4)
    This is not the sound of a new man....

    J. Ponton EMERITUS (2)
    It’s not a problem that Vernon hasn't created music in the same style of the last succes...

    Cam EMERITUS (4.5)
    Each song acts like a personal journal entry, documenting Justin Vernon’s experience bac...


Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
June 21st 2011



15332 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Not really sure if this even qualifies as a review, but what I did was listen to the album in order and just do a stream-of-consciousness type of deal. Basically just writing what I'm feeling as it's happening to me.

It's an experiment, so I don't know how well it worked but yeah review #125 felt like a good time to do something off the wall

Digging: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus

psykonaut
June 21st 2011



3913 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

you done good

lancebramsay
June 21st 2011



1585 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

you need to change the review rating to a 5 sir then this will be complete.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
June 21st 2011



15332 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I tried to inject a lot of symbolism but I'm sure it got lost somewhere in my jumbled delivery.

But either way its not like we needed another normal 4 or 4.5 review for this

lancebramsay
June 21st 2011



1585 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'm serious about the 5, why not?

Poet
June 21st 2011



5920 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Review feels like my Vivaldi review I did a few years back. I love seeing people write about music like this.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
June 22nd 2011



15332 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I like my abstract review for (e)vening better, but this will suffice.

I just feel like I didn't describe the music enough...I mean you can easily understand that I liked the album, and maybe get a few ideas on its overarching sound, like wintry, isolated, thaw-y

Who knows though maybe I'm just too used to writing in my standard format

Irving
Staff Reviewer
June 22nd 2011



7136 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This review strongly reminds me of one of the first computer games ever invented, a text adventure named...Adventure.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ADVENT_--_Will_Crowther%27s_original_version.png

lancebramsay
June 22nd 2011



1585 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I think you did a sufficient job capturing the emotional element to this album. I also think that you described the sound well enough too. Ultimately we don't read the review to know the sound, we want the bigger picture. You did great, hence why I pos'd.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
June 22nd 2011



15332 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

thanks guys, you seem to have more confidence in my ability to deviate from the norm than I do.

album is so rich, if you haven't heard it, i obv. recommend

Tyrael
June 22nd 2011



20724 Comments


Great review Sowing, this was a very enjoyable read, definitely one of your best!
Please, write more reviews in this kind of style :]

I wish I could enjoy this as much as you did though...

Nagrarok
June 22nd 2011



8169 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I need to hear this.

Knott-
Emeritus
June 22nd 2011



10194 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

This is better than your (e)vening review. This is great.

theacademy
June 22nd 2011



28232 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

this is terrible

theacademy
June 22nd 2011



28232 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

not the review

theacademy
June 22nd 2011



28232 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

curse my enemies forever lets slit our wrists and burn down something beautiful


Omaha
Staff Reviewer
June 22nd 2011



9977 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Justin Vernon is spelled incorrectly- the only reason I noticed is that it's the first two words..

Very good review, though! I enjoyed it. The album hasn't clicked for me yet, but I hope it does soon.

Digging: Deniro Farrar - Rebirth

defjaw83
June 22nd 2011



1765 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Album rules. You did well converting the sound/mood into imagery for this review. It's kinda along the lines of the images this fires up in my head but I don't think I realised it until I read this, if that makes sense!

Still wrapped in that blanket, you let out a relieved sigh, sink down into the couch cushion a little more, and put Bon Iver, Bon Iver on for another spin


Fucking this.

Great review, pos'd!

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
June 22nd 2011



15332 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

thanks guys. glad you liked it

and thanks for the fix omaha

Gyromania
June 23rd 2011



15187 Comments


One of your best reviews, SS, have a pos. I love this album more with each listen. "Wash." makes me tear up whenever I hear it.



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