‘Bon Iver’ an outstanding self-titled sophomore album

Christopher Nguyen

Bon Iver – "Calgary" by blatanti

Like Thoreau’s journey into the woods that served as the backbone of Walden, Bon Iver’s tale of taking shelter from personal troubles at his father’s cabin only to come out with songs that would comprise his breakthrough album, For Emma, Forever Ago, has created a band of Bon Iver followers. Although the romantic ideal of his cabin stay adds interest to the album, it stands well by itself without the backstory. His long-awaited, eponymous follow-up proves it.

The entire self-titled album evokes the same pastoral ruggedness of his debut. The guitars strum gently to and fro on “Towers.” The piano reverberates and twinkles like stars on “Wash.” His falsetto vocals harmonize together and float gently against the melodies on “Holocene.”

Bon Iver seems to have higher aspirations than to repeat his previous work though. The percussion pounds on “Perth.” Synths reveal themselves with greater force on “Calgary.” They reach and succeed for a quiet epic quality.

All of the songs glide so well into each other that even the odd closer “Beth/Rest,” with its clamping, adult contemporary-style piano and smooth saxophone runs, doesn’t seem too out of place.

Bon Iver’s lyrics don’t provoke and scream for attention. They are simply poetry, not to sound too bombastic. The only way to do them justice is to offer excerpts:

Is hardly shown
Across the foam
Like they stole it
And oh, how they hold it

(From “Wash”)

Aren’t we married!

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
Sure some hazardry
For the light before and after most indefinitely

(From “Beth/Rest”)

For all this acclaim, one would think this album reinvents the wheel. That’s just it; it doesn’t, and the singer behind the album doesn’t seem to care to. Instead, like a man going back to the forest to rediscover life, Bon Iver is journeying back through the history of music to find that great music needs only perfectly crafted lyrics and melodies to shine.

Printed on 06/23/2011 as: Bon Iver's latest release surpasses expectations with poetic lyrics, vocals