When Bon Iver released For Emma, forever ago, he created a perfect record. Or as perfect as you can get. The thing that grabbed me the most about that first record, is the emotion in it. Yes, the songwriting is stunning, his voice is flawless and the instrumentation and recording process is incredibly unique. But it’s the emotion that makes so many people completely fall in love with that record. When he announced that he would be releasing a second Bon Iver album, I was a bit tentative. I saw the Bon Iver thing about being at a certain time, in that cabin in the woods, when Justin Vernon made that first record. I thought maybe it should have been left alone, left at the perfection it was.
This album isn’t as good as For Emma, it’s not even close. That emotion, that sound of loneliness ,and that simplicity of the first record has gone. But what we remains is something so special in its own right. In a video interview, Justin comments that he called this album Bon Iver because it felt like the end of something, like he was rounding that period of his life. Bon Iver, Bon Iver; Good Winter, Good Winter. Listening to this record, that makes a lot of sense. It does have elements of the first album. but it also feels like he has moved on with his life and this is the result of that.
The vacant guitar and layered vocals have been replaced with heavy wind and brass instruments, electric instruments and synths and percussion. There’s more experimentation in this second record, in one way it’s more interesting to listen to, it creates a sound world. And there is still that beauty. The first record was beautiful, beautiful in the way it flowed and beautiful in the way it affected the listener. And this record does that too.
For this whole review, I have compared Bon Iver Bon Iver to For Emma, Forever ago. But I think this is the best way to appreciate it. I wouldn’t recommend listening to this album unless you have absorbed the first record, I feel like the whole Bon Iver thing is a concept and not just a band, and you need it all to get it. Think of it like this, For Emma was part 1, the Blood Bank EP was the connection, and Bon Iver was part 2, the final part to that story. But will their be more stories? I think their needs to be.
Standout Tracks: Holocene, Calgary, Beth/Rest