In facing great expectations, Vernon has simply turned and walked away from the legacy of his debut; rather than attempt to emulate the intimate cabin fever of that album, he has crafted an expansive and ambitious piece – a compelling listen from start to finish.
Whether exploring supple R&B in Minnesota, WI, joyful country in Towers, or swollen soft-rock in Beth/Rest, Bon Iver remains rooted in the emotional sincerity that made Vernon's debut so mesmerising.
The 10 unconventionally structured songs are less shaky-tent-in-a-snowstorm and more ambitious-skyscraper-blasting-into-the sky.
After the closeness and austerity of For Emma, Vernon has given us a knotty record that resists easy interpretation but is no less warm or welcoming.
For all its introspection, Bon Iver feels a lot more open than Vernon’s previous work, the sound of a lonely guy taking his first steps into a larger world.
As Vernon himself admits, this record is a sounds-first album, leading with the how rather than the what. While not a complete sea change, it’s a new approach for Vernon, who finds his Bon Iver project graced with both the tools and the audience for such an approach.
An emboldened Vernon achieves a beautiful fantasy all his own, backed by a full band and buoyed with horns and pedal steel.
It retains the beautiful melancholy of For Emma, but in nearly every way, it’s just more. More layered, more diverse, more interesting.
The album is a shoo-in for being a timeless great, no matter what we say.
It’s a rich and intricate collage that shows restraint in its cascade of ideas as well as Vernon’s maturity as a songwriter.
Those who approach Bon Iver with open minds and open ears will with repeated listens find that Vernon has not strayed too far from his original raison d'etre.
Vernon re-accesses that potent sense of self on Bon Iver, a stunning sophomore set whose landscape-painting cover art underscores the idea that his songs inhabit their own psychological space.
Justin Vernon and his crew have changed things up here for sure, but the results are every bit as beautiful as you might expect.
It is undeniably an album about “growth,” and it has a way of pushing you out of your comfort zone.
Bon Iver embarks on a sustainable new direction for the band and is evidence of a successful transition from one-off wonder to durable outfit.
It's a logical progression from Emma, and one that few artists have been able to make. Most try to return to their wallowing, to mine the same material that connected them with their audience in the first place. But Vernon deserves tremendous credit for wanting to express his hope and his joy.
Vernon’s taken the ingredients that made For Emma transcend its bedroom folkie origins and fly – the hushed, multi-tracked falsetto vocals, the indelible melodies, the evocative, heartbroken lyrics – and expanded upon them.
For much of Bon Iver, Vernon takes his cues from Volcano Choir, using an array of disparate instrumentation and looping effects to beautifully eerie effect.
It makes these ten tracks slightly less immediate, but just as moving. A wonderful, worthy follow-up.
The project is no longer shackled to the minimal, one-man strum of For Emma, but it's all the more beautiful and heart-rending.
It is still a very good album, with some pretty songs, but it lacks For Emma, Forever Ago's sense of balance – of completeness.
Those looking for the raw catharsis of ‘For Emma…’ will need to cop their misery fix elsewhere – ‘Bon Iver’ is the sound of a man making peace with the world, saxophones and all.
The ideas on Bon Iver — Colin Stetson's shimmery horn parts, Rob Moose's elegant arrangements — are engaging even when they don't lead anywhere, and the music is beautiful, even when it veers into schmaltz.
Despite its hype, its expectations, its blown up sound, and its many production flourishes, Bon Iver is nothing more than a solid placeholder album.
|# 3 -||A.V. Club|
|# 2 -||Amazon|
|# 15 -||American Songwriter|
|# 9 -||BBC|
|# 7 -||Bigger Than The Sound|
|# 2 -||Billboard|
|# 26 -||Clash|
|# 2 -||Consequence of Sound|
|# 11 -||DIY|
|# 12 -||Drowned in Sound|
|# 2 -||FILTER|
|# 13 -||MAGNET|
|# 16 -||MOJO|
|# 5 -||musicOMH|
|# 46 -||NME|
|# 6 -||No Ripcord|
|# 37 -||Obscure Sound|
|# 20 -||One Thirty BPM|
|# 1 -||Paste|
|# 9 -||Pazz and Jop|
|# 1 -||Pitchfork|
|# 2 -||PopMatters|
|# 8 -||Prefix|
|# 4 -||Pretty Much Amazing|
|# 4 -||Q Magazine|
|# 21 -||Rolling Stone|
|# 7 -||Slant|
|# 14 -||SPIN|
|# 8 -||Spinner|
|# 3 -||Stereogum|
|# 17 -||The Fly|
|# 5 -||The Guardian|
|# 18 -||The Line of Best Fit|
|# 9 -||Uncut|
|# 3 -||Under the Radar|
|# 2 -||Urban Outfitters|
|# 6 -||AoTY 2011|
|# 1 -||AoTY Readers 2011|
|# 10 -||Billboard (2010-2014)|
|# 1 -||Exclaim! (Pop & Rock)|
|# 1 -||NPR Listeners|
|# 27 -||Pitchfork (2010-2014)|
|# 1 -||Pitchfork Readers|
|# 28 -||Pitchfork: The People's List|
|# 2 -||PopMatters (Indie Rock)|
|# 1 -||Stereogum (First Half)|