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Album Review: “Bon Iver” by Bon Iver

Posted by Samantha Hatfield on 06/06 at 12:49 PM

Grade: A-

In the realm of indie music folklore, there exists the story of Bon Iver. Bon Iver is a band born out of heartbreak, but one that has succeeded through an insane amount of heart, talent, and love.

Bon Iver, taken from the French “bon hiver”—meaning “good winter”—was created in the winter of 2007 when indie singer-songwriter, Justin Vernon, locked himself away in his father’s northern Wisconsin cabin and produced one of the most profound indie albums of all time. Each heartbreakingly pure track on For Emma, Forever Ago planted the seeds of Bon Iver’s beginnings. After producing this amazingly cathartic album, Vernon developed his true voice within the music industry and founded the four-man band by adding Sean Carey (drums, backing vocals, piano), Michael Noyce (backing vocals, baritone guitar, guitar), and Matthew McCaughan (bass, drums, backing vocals). All of this paved the way for their sophomore album, Bon Iver.

The self-titled album is a type of awakening and, according to an interview Vernon gave on Jimmy Fallon’s late night show, it is “very springy, more colorful.” The band has certainly emerged from the deep winter of their first album, and the darkness of their Blood Bank EP to produce a ten-track album of compositions that indeed flow into one another with
the eternalness of spring.

In usual Bon Iver style the album opens with a beautiful ballad, “Perth.” As Vernon’s voice blooms within the chords of the song, the album catches the listener from the first moments. It is easy to prepare for the musical journey with the catchy and beautifully upbeat opening. Vernon’s undeniable falsetto is what makes Bon Iver’s music so enchanting, and on Bon Iver, it has taken a turn toward the light, emerging in the soft beautiful hues of sunlight rather than sinking into the depths of a chilling winter.

As one song bleeds into another, the album carries on without any real break in production.m“Minnesota, WI” is the second track that has a real groove, something different for the band. The song takes on a warmer edge that has been previously untapped within the confines of Bon Iver’s music. The overlapping nature mixed with the deeper groove has made room for the band to move beyond their previous work. The album plays out with a wistfulness that shows the comfort that each musician has within the band and the growing level of musicianship that exists between the musical masterminds of Bon Iver.

As the album continues to unfold, every chord and harmony progresses into crescendos of life and light. “Towers” is one of the most upbeat tracks on the entire album that truly embodies the spring-like quality that Vernon talks about with Bon Iver. While many of Justin Vernon’s earlier lyrical compositions told tragically fated love stories, in this latest endeavor Vernon moves into new territory. Within “Towers” is written the line, “For the love, I’d fallen on in the swampy August dawn what a mischief you would bring young darling! When the onus is not all your own, when you’re up for it before you’ve grown.” Vernon scribes a love story different from those of his past, which shows an appreciation of new love not merely a composition of unrequited love.

The band has certainly explored new territory on the latest album some efforts more successful than others. When it comes to the final track “Beth/Rest,” their exploration did not yield the best results. The song is not exactly the strongest exit track as it has a somewhat kitschy, eighties feel with it’s use of synthesizer and saxophone. Although Bon Iver brought an indie edge to the song, it definitely should not become a common aesthetic for the group. A more earthy sound is definitely better suited to Bon Iver, but overall their sophomore album has proved that they are going to keep producing music that the public will want to consume. Can’t wait to see where they go from here.

{name} Author: Samantha Hatfield
Bio: Samantha is currently a senior double majoring in Broadcast Journalism and Theater. She is a perfectionist with a penchant for writing, video production and music. Ever since seeing Weezer live at the then “Tweeter” Center at the ripe old age of 12, she has been hooked on live music and developed a voracious appetite for new albums and bands. Some of Samantha’s favorite bands include: Bon Iver, The Raconteurs, Florence + The Machine, Band of Horses, Cage the Elephant, Ray LaMontagne and the list goes on.

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