A winter’s soundscape, stretched across nearly forty minutes of lo-fi, folksy instrumentations and the inimitable, falsettos of Justin Vernon made the serene wilderness of Bon Iver’s debut, For Emma, Forever Ago, a brilliant act of escapism from a convoluted music world. What, if anything, could Bon Iver do to surpass their brilliant, wintery debut? Introducing: Bon Iver’s Bon Iver; the summer equivalent to galloping through the snow on a cold, January night.
Vernon has never been known as a man who resets on his immensely creative morals. Between producing Land Of Talk’s debut record, Some Are Lakes (2008), and being the man who pulled the strings on Kanye West’s’ magnum opus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010), Vernon was planning the next phase for Bon Iver. Toiling away in a converted swimming pool, Bon Iver recorded what is sure to be considered a massive departure from their ambient-laced debut.
“Tor 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 croons on “Towers” while a bass saxophone mellows the backdrop. The delicate intricacies, whether lyrically or musically, found on For Emma, Forever Ago are amplified on Bon Iver. Intricacies such as the marching drums of “Perth” and a slide-guitar of “Wash.” provide an ever-deepening story for which the listener must traverse.
One could make the case that Bon Iver is more accessible than For Emma, Forever Ago; a case certainly difficult to repudiate. Yet, accessibility implies, for better or for worse, the mainstreaming of a product. There is no mainstreaming, no conveyer-belt feel, to Bon Iver. The driving “Calgary,” with its distorted guitars and righteous melody, is certainly more approachable than any previous Bon Iver track, but its experimental tendencies are refreshingly multifarious. Or perhaps, one could consider the Prince-tinged “Beth/Rest” with its ‘80s synthesizers romantically anchoring Vernon’s best vocal performance of his career. Layer upon glorious layer are waiting to be uncovered throughout Bon Iver.
Lyrically, Vernon is ever poignant. “I was unafraid, I was a boy, I was a tender age // melic in the naked, knew a lake and drew the lofts for page,” the artiste sings on “Michicant,” “hurdle all the waitings up, know it wasn’t wedded love // 4 long minutes end and it was over it’d all be back // and the frost took up the eyes.” Themes of love and maturation permeate the lyrics of Bon Iver in the guise of the avant-garde poeticism that Vernon has become so famous for. Yet, it is when Vernon’s innocence (“Holoscene”) is captured in folk-librettos that the chills begin to run up the spine of the captive listener.
For those who consider themselves wonderers of the night: Bon Iver is for you. For those who relish daydreams of the grandest spectacles: Bon Iver is for you. For those who find the beauty of nature best exemplified through musical notes: Bon Iver is for you. And for those who, before any other means, find avenues of escape in long, lonesome car rides or through solitude walks among the trees: Bon Iver is for you. Open the book of Bon Iver. Read every chapter, every sentence, every word. Experience every note. Explore every intricate, dark corner. Revel in the beauty that Bon Iver affords you.