Review Summary: The fuller sound of Bon Iver.
Bon Iver’s self-titled sophomore album purposefully steers away from his former album’s raw-pining-for-lost-lovers-like-a-hermit-in-a-secluded-cabin-acoustic sound to something significantly less whiny while maintaining that same ubiquitous falsetto.
In the second record, Bon Iver became a multi-manned ship. The original Bon Iver, Justin Vernon, constructed the songs and then asked other musicians like bass saxophonist Colin Stetson and pedal-steel guitarist Greg Leisz to play with him, which resulted in a much fuller sound throughout the entire album. In short, Justin Vernon’s balls dropped, but his voice didn’t crack. Lyrically, the album is much more vague, and as such it is applicable to a wider audience. But this wasn’t an attempt to widen fan base. Instead, Vernon wrote the lyrics intent on focusing on the beauty of the words themselves. The opening track, “Perth,” has popularly been described as the blossoming into spring from his previous album For Emma, Forever Ago, and “Beth/Rest” as a beautiful death.
The final track is significantly different from the rest of the album. Whereas most of the album strikes the listener as some kind of heavenly choir, “Beth/Rest” reels the listener back to the musical feel of the 70s. At the start of the album, listeners from around the world all start from their own realities, but the listening experience and journey through the album leads listeners to a context of Vernon’s own creation. This journey motif is reinforced by the fact that all the tracks are inspired by real world locations. All in all, Bon Iver has come through with a stunningly beautiful album — the international acclaim it has received is indeed completely justified.