It took us awhile to get our ears on the long awaited sophomore release from the elusive falsetto folk hero Bon Iver, but finally it happened. And I for one swoon for the new Bon Iver tunes. Through the shitty speakers of a laptop, it sounds like standard Bon Iver fare with Justin Vernon's signature echo stamped on every single track, melting them together into one long fluid song.
A second, third, then tenth listen through headphones, however, proved the songs to be--albeit signature in style--not only unique, but wonderful. Shame on me for being initially cursory.
It's hard to pick a favorite, though easy to pick a least: the one minute of Lisbon, OH, an albeit beautifully ambient track that takes up precious space on such an anticipated album. And I couldn't get my hands on Wash., thanks to a plethora of similarly named tracks online.
The influence of Vernon's more recent pursuits are obvious on the "self titled" album, ie the album's pretty saxxy (and therefore, pretty sexy, thanks Gayngs). Hinnom, TX features a velvety bass voice backed by a falsetto one more reminiscent of R&B, while Minnesota, WI, slips some brass into an otherwise regular, rambling Bon Iver-style tune.
Perth, described by JV himself as a "“a Civil War-sounding heavy metal song," features the rat-a-tat of a fife and drum corps snare, but it's the guitar hook that stands out as superior.
Towers is a plucky, trumpet tinged song reminiscent of John Mayer's 3x5 (yes, sorry, it is), while Calgary, the only single released so far, is the most upbeat (beat wise).
It took me a sec to locate the Bruce Hornsby inspired song (as described by Jimmy Fallon, because there are bits of influence all over the album), but Beth/Rest is it, featuring a smooth jazz sound with piano.
The standout for me as the most inspired tune on the album is Holocene--introspective, almost brooding lyrics, rambling acoustic guitar... perfect summer driving music. Yes, I said that about a Bon Iver tune.
The songs in short are slow and soulful, but compared to the vein-opening style songwriting found on prior releases, it's a relatively (key word here) upbeat album and pretty lovely. Sounds like Justin Vernon isn't necessarily trying to tell a story, but avoid be constrained by one, and so far seems successful.