Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar, 2011)

To tell you the truth, I never really was a huge Bon Iver fan. I had heard “Flume” and “Skinny Love” (the latter, in particular, I was astounded by) earlier this year, but I never really sat down to listen to For Emma, Forever Ago. After listening to Bon Iver’s latest effort, I’m going to make sure to go back to that. Justin Vernon really has crafted an album here.

The whole thing is rife with exciting instrumentation (it’s especially fun to listen to from a musician’s perspective), solid percussion (particularly on “Perth” and “Calgary”, off the top of my head), and plenty of delicate, sweeping and ambient instrumentals (I mean this different from instrumentation in that instrumentation is the choice of instruments, while instrumentals are the actual musical parts written/performed here). It becomes this lush, ephemeral experience (particularly some track around the middle of the album just flew by for me…maybe “Michicant” or “Hinnom, TX”?) that just goes above and beyond most albums I’ve heard in a while. It took two listens, but I can say that this album is incredible. Justin Vernon is a talent not to be missed, especially on this record. Some of it may not seem like anything groundbreaking (the first three tracks remind me a lot of melodic post-rock, and “Holocene” in particular makes me think of Owen’s “Bad News” from At Home With Owen…to add to that, “Beth/Rest” reminded me a lot of 80s pop, especially in the instrumentals, which I can understand from his interview with Pitchfork that he was paying homage to bands he grew up listening to), but believe me, this is quite a ride. Even transitional tracks, like “Lisbon, OH” and (arguably) “Hinnom, TX”, are captivating, adding to an already ebullient aural ambiance. I believe Vernon stated he had written “Perth” a while back, and was waiting to use it as the first track on a later disc. His strategy here was completely well executed. All I can say is I’m in awe. This is what an album should be.

Key tracks: “Perth”, “Minnesota, WI”, “Holocene”, “Wash.”, “Calgary”, “Beth/Rest”, but trust me, this whole thing is gold.