After making ripples in the sea of Indie artists, Bon Iver’s eponymous second album has vaulted the Wisconsin band to the forefront and even makes a salient case for best album of 2011. Front man Justin Vernon’s well-known and tender falsetto, an instrument in and of itself, offers placid, lyrical landscapes and poignant undertones.
Bon Iver drifts away from the dreary and melancholic temperaments of their debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago, which Vernon recorded and produced himself in a Wisconsin cabin in the middle of winter. The new record is an affluent collaborative effort that features well-known musicians such as Colin Stetson (saxophone) and Greg Leisz (guitar) with lyrics that veer away from Vernon’s isolated pain and loss that served as the backbone of For Emma.
The album offers tracks that encapsulate the serenity of nature as a handful of them are titled after geographic locations (“Perth,” “Calgary,” “Hinnom, TX”). They also provide a new soundscape with the inclusion of soft keys and subtle horns contrasted to the For Emma’s dominant usage of the guitar.
“Holocene,” perhaps the centerpiece of the album, embarks the listener on a majestic adventure where the narrator is gazing out into some kind of landscape: “…and at once I knew I was not magnificent / strayed above the highway aisle /(jagged vacance, thick with ice) / I could see for miles, miles, miles.” Vernon’s lyrics are shrewd, but also difficult to decipher through his yawning falsetto.
Yet, Bon Iver offers listeners a yearning to continuously play those mystical and crooning songs over and over.
Matt Vaghi may be reached at email@example.com