Music

[Indie Folk]

CD Review: Bon Iver

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Annie Zaleski

The Details

Bon Iver
Bon Iver
three and a half stars

The built-in mythology of Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago—recorded in a cabin in the dead of winter, the album chronicles bone-chilling isolation and heartbreak—gave it automatic emotional resonance and heft. The self-titled Emma’s follow-up wisely focuses on its music and arrangements to provoke catharsis, while maintaining its predecessor’s subtle use of silence and restraint. Bon Iver bulks up Justin Vernon’s iron-folk guitar and keening falsetto with strings (“Minnesota, WI”), pedal-steel whine and buckling guitar (“Towers”), lacy piano (“Wash.”) and, most obviously, keyboards and synths beamed from ’80s soft-rock demigods (“Hinnom, TX,” “Calgary”). The latter moments are actually Bon Iver’s best; for instance, the liquid electric guitar, retro sax and processed piano of “Beth/Rest” conjures Prince circa Purple Rain by way of Air Supply. However, the comfort found in this retro instrumentation never overwhelms the temporal loneliness permeating this fine album.

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