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Bon Iver is a great example of a modern musician who appeals to many. Justin Vernon’s rise to fame is one of Hollywood proportions; morphing from hermit folk singer to guest vocalist on a platinum selling hip-hop album in just over 2 years. This kind of crossover appeal is unlikely to be seen again for a long time, mainly due to the unique quality of Vernon’s falsetto and how it lends itself so well to soulful R’n'B. These events are partly why Vernon is unlikely to ever put out an album like ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ again. Mainly, however, it is because that album was weighted so heavily in Vernon’s personal life, with its back story being so well documented.
On the new self titled album intimacy and minimalism are replaced with a more rounded, grander setting populated by impeccable instrumentation and intricate arrangements. The sound, and the production of that sound are placed at the forefront on this album rather than leading with song writing and storytelling. The album altogether feels like a more collaborative effort, with Vernon enlisted the help of a wide array of musicians including experimental, virtuoso saxophonist, Colin Stetson (who has worked with Tom Waits, Arcade Fire and David Byrne amongst others). This allows the themes of the album to be fleshed out to a much greater extent, with more varied influences such as the ones on standout track ‘Michicant’. These factors are visibly informed by Vernon’s projects outside of Bon Iver.
Working with Kanye and Gayngs and the production processes involved with those undertakings must have informed Vernon when recording the tracks on this album. A track like West’s new single ‘Monster’ is so far removed from fragility of ‘For Emma…’ that it helps to contribute to a bolder, more adventurous soundscape throughout ‘Bon Iver’ (most ambitiously on the 80s imbued, auto-tuned closer, ‘Beth/Rest’). The fuzz bass used on ‘Minnesota, WI’ is a prime example of the touches that would have been completely out of place in the desolate setting of ‘For Emma…’, and yet are the driving force behind the new record which makes a statement about new music today. Read about new music on this site.