Since the release of their album, For Emma, Forever Ago, American indie folk group Bon Iver has done quite well for themselves. The single “Skinny Love” was featured on a number of television programs including “Chuck” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” Other songs from the album were used throughout the entertainment industry, including “Rosyln” for the Twilight series’ “New Moon” soundtrack.
Four years after their first, Bon Iver released a second album, the self-titled Bon Iver. The album consists of 10 songs and was recorded in a veterinarian clinic in northwestern Wisconsin. In addition to the four musicians on the first album (Justin Vernon, Michael Noyce, Sean Carey and Matthew McCaughan), additional musicians, including bass saxophonist Colin Stetson and pedal-steel guitarist Greg Leisz, are included.
With all the songs on the album written and composed by Justin Vernon, two that have been popular on iTunes include “Holocene” and “Calgary.” But each entry is unique in its musical style.
“Holocene” focuses on the distance between two people, the singer arguing, “Strayed above the highway aisle/ Jagged vacance, thick with ice/ I could see for miles, miles, miles.” A steady strum of the guitar chords accompany a beautiful vocal harmony. Another nice touch is the rhythmic drum beating during the bridge of the song.
A more quickly paced song, “Minnesota, WI,” begins with a very pronounced drumbeat. As the song enters the chorus, a distant saxophone adds a jazzy element. There is a conflict in the message of this song with the repetitive line “Never gonna break” held in contrast to lyrics such as “So carry on, my dear/… Fall is coming soon/ A new year for the moon…”
The opening song of the soundtrack, “Perch,” is mainly instrumental but manages to beautifully blend the sounds of the group’s vocals, guitars and snare drums. As the song continues, the instrumental sounds come together to create an even greater musical fusion, especially with the inclusion of cymbals.
One of the most frequent themes over the course of the album is romance, specifically the questioning and confusion over a relationship before, during and after one is started.
In the final song of the album, “Beth/Rest,” the song comments on living life in a relationship surrounded with love. “I ain’t living in the dark no more/ It’s not a promise, I’m just gonna call it/ Heavy mitted love/ Our love is a star.”
“Towers” also comments on love following the conclusion of a relationship. Throughout the lyrics there is a sense of want, nostalgia and regret. “From the faun forever gone/ In the towers of your honeycomb/ I’d a tore your hair out just to climb back, darling/ When you’re filling out your only form.”
Finally, “Michicant” discusses love at a far more profound level. The lyrics study the anxiety present when making love for the first time. “Hurdle, all the waiting’s up/ Know it wasn’t wedded love/ 4 long minutes end and it was over.”
Although previously well-established, Bon Iver continues to impress audiences with their vocal harmony, soft blending of instruments and common themes in their lyrics. Instead of relying on the things that brought about their initial success, their new album, Bon Iver, provides a new and exciting taste of the group’s capabilities.
4.5 out of 5 stars