Review Summary: Bon Iver's beautiful follow up to For Emma, Forever Ago which sees the band delve into soaring soundscapes with outstanding results.
When I first announced to my friends that I was intending on buying a Bon Iver album, they all suggested that I go for the debut before the self titled. They believed that the accessibility of the first album would draw me in. However, I decided to buy Bon Iver's second release; Bon Iver.
I found this album to be so sensationally beautiful and honest, that within just a couple of listens it became one of my favourite ever albums. Throughout, the instrumentation is complex and diverse but without ever becoming over-crowded, and Justin Vernon's vocals (incomprehensible at times) simply become another instrument that blends seamlessly into the fascinating mix of melody and harmony. This mix of melody and harmony houses some of the most beautiful arrangements in music I have ever heard. Swelling string sections can appear out of nowhere to really catch the breath of the listener, whilst intimate acoustic guitar and piano parts allow one to really connect with Vernon and his lyrics.
And the lyrics - once you've read through them - are as honestly deep and touching as on 'For Emma', although maybe a little more optimistic in subject. That's not to say that there aren't moody undertones to the vocals though, and some sections of songs are so spectacularly sad that it feels as though they were written in that log cabin in solitude. Personal favourite lyrics of mine include, 'And at once I knew, I was not magnificent' from Holocene and 'I ain't living in the dark no more, that's not a promise, I'm just gonna call it' from Beth/Rest.
It's almost impossible for me to focus on individual tracks in this review, as the whole album is definitely (ready for the cliche?) a journey, and every song simply feels like a movement in an outstanding symphony. However, if I had to chose a favourite, it would have to be the final track, Beth/Rest.
Beth/Rest stands out from the rest of the album partly due to it's normality in musicality. It is one of few tracks with a continuous drum rhythm and if Bon Iver had been around in the 80s, this is how I imagine they'd have done a power ballad. The changes in structure continuously keep the listener engaged and I found myself thinking, 'oh this is surely the chorus', when really there is simply a number of 'verses' that leave you waiting for the 'chorus that never comes'. What does arrive though, is a climax of piano, synth, drums and lead guitar that round the album off in sensational style. Next to no vocals are required over this finale as the band let their instruments sing the themes of love, sadness, longing and loneliness found throughout the album in an alternative and indie style that I had never personally heard before.
Bon Iver, Bon Iver is a classic for me due to it's originality of style and it's simply gorgeous melodic and harmonic soundscapes, which when accompanied by minimalist Falsetto vocals create a musical experience that shares the same power and beauty as many classical pieces of music. 5/5.
If you found this review helpful in any way, my recommended tracks are, Perth, Holocene, Towers and Beth/Rest.