June 17, 2011



alternative folk rock



Album Tracks:

  1. Perth
  2. Minnesota, WI
  3. Holocene
  4. Towers
  5. Michicant
  6. Hinnom, TX
  7. Wash.
  8. Calgary
  9. Lisbon, OH
  10. Beth/Rest

Sales (in millions):




Singles/Hit Songs:

  • Calgary (2011) --
  • Holocene (2011) --


A November 2011 re-release on iTunes added “short films by visual artists…accompanying each track.” WK

Bon Iver

Bon Iver


When Justin Vernon “split from his beardy prog-folk band, DeYarmond Edison, and moved to a hunting cabin in Wisconsin” WH he “he recorded a spare, falsetto-filled LP under the moniker Bon Iver.” WH That album, For Emma, Forever Ago, was a post-breakup affair which felt “less like the end of a relationship and more like the promise of a new beginning.” JJ

It also “earned Vernon his own cult” WH and a surprising fan in Kanye West. “Vernon worked extensively with him on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, singing and co-writing.” WH Then “a piano prodigy named Jasmine Van den Bogaerde (stage name: Birdy) had a Top 20 U.K. hit with Vernon’s ‘Skinny Love’.” WH

While For Emma was recorded in isolation, live performances of it required a band. When it came time to record a sophomore effort, Vernon “hired well-known players like bass saxophonist Colin Stetson and pedal-steel guitarist Greg Leisz.” WK As Vernon said, “I brought in a lot of people to change my voice — not my singing voice, but my role as the author of this band, this project.” WK

The result was “more electrified and elaborately arranged – more everything, really – than For Emma, but with the same woolly ambiance.” WH “It shows a deeply creative guy in a new, spotlighted context. For a self-titled LP, it sounds more like an exploration than a statement of purpose.” WH

Bon Iver was well-received; it landed a Grammy nomination for Alternative Album and Paste magazine named it 2011’s Album of the Year. The song Holocene even landed surprising Grammy nominations for Record and Song of the Year.

Bon Iver “retains the beautiful melancholy of For Emma but in nearly every way, it’s just more. More layered, more diverse, more interesting. He brings in collaborators to do what they do best, but never at the expense of his sound and vision. It treads into new sonic directions without getting lost.” JJ

“It all feels like a logical progression from what came before.” WH “There are elements on nearly every song that erase the memory of ‘that folk guy with a guitar singing introspective, personal songs.’” JJ “The draw remains Vernon’s raw-honey falsetto and mastery of voice processing” WH but he also builds on “the Auto-Tune experiment that jump-started the West collaboration (‘Woods’, from Vernon’s Blood Bank EP, which became the core of West’s ‘Lost in the World’).” WH “Check Wash – a plea refracted through a kaleidoscope of effects, built around piano and wrapped in gorgeous strings. The approach, as West no doubt sensed, makes Vernon one of our era’s defining singers.” WH

Bon Iver starts off quietly with a lovely little guitar riff on Perth, but a keyboard wash and military drums kick in before we hear Vernon’s falsetto. Three-quarters of the way through, the song has swelled to its peak, something he and his bandmates Michael Noyce, Sean Carey and Matthew McCaughan became masters of while touring behind the debut.” JJ The effort has been called a “Civil War-sounding heavy metal song.” WK

“Vernon said that each song on the new album represents a place” WK and many of the songs are “named for remote towns, real and imagined.” JJHinnom, TX sets off horns and static bursts like distant fireworks” WH and finds “Deep-Voiced Vernon dueting with Falsetto Vernon in front of some slow, echo-y U2 guitars.” JJ

Minnesota, WI blends what sounds like banjos and acoustic guitars with a gnarly bass swell and hushed R&B horns, with Vernon singing ‘Imma lay that call back on ya’ like he’s covering a TV on the Radio number at a late-night bluegrass jam.” WH

“The ideas on Bon Iver – Colin Stetson’s shimmery horn parts, Rob Moose’s elegant arrangements – are engaging even when they don’t lead anywhere, and the music is beautiful, even when it veers into schmaltz (see the Phil ¬Collins-meets-the Alan Parsons Project Beth/Rest, then insert wisecrack about Wisconsinites and cheese love). There’s nothing as gorgeous here as ‘Re: Stacks’, the closing meditation on For Emma, although the countryish Towers comes close. But Vernon is more than a bearded indie rocker with a taste for rural roots music. He’s a soul auteur, and he’s just getting started.” BH

Review Source(s):

Holocene (video)

Calgary (video)

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Last updated December 1, 2011.