by Dusty Aunan – Music Director/Producer: “What the Folk”
Songwriter Justin Vernon spent the three months of winter in a cabin in Northwest Wisconsin recovering from the break-ups of a band and a relationship, and from having mononucleosis. The result of that winter was Bon Iver’s 2007 LP For Emma, Forever Ago. The record is downtrodden but it paves the way for spring, coming in the form of Bon Iver, this year’s self-titled follow-up.
Where For Emma used a Silvertone guitar and hand-me-down drums, Bon Iver is spread with synthesizers, pianos, woodwinds, some banjo, and string quartets. Not to mention some Bruce Hornsby-style electric piano on “Beth/Rest”. Each song seems to offer something novel in its instrumentation to set it apart from the rest of the album.
If the listener isn’t convinced that this record is more optimistic, on the opening track “Perth” Vernon belts, “Still alive for you, love” in his trademark falsetto. This happens while a snare drum marches and his own harmonies help lift up the message.
“Michicant” weaves dynamic instrumentation over a gentle electric guitar waltz. Saxophone, bells, and some kind of echo-y drums circle around as Vernon sings some vague and poetic words: “melic in the naked, knew a lake and drew the lofts for page/hurdle all the waitings up, know it wasn’t wedded love”.
On lead single “Calgary”, the synthesizer is king, at least until about two and a half minutes into the song. It is then that the electric guitar comes in with driving chords and dissonant licks. However, the last forty-five seconds are laid down gently with acoustic guitar and light cymbal work.
Other album standouts are “Towers”, “Hinnom, TX” and “Beth/Rest”.
Although the lyrics can be confusing at times, it is clear that Bon Iver has hope and not mononucleosis.