Bon Iver Returns with Sophomore Album

Kyle Quinn-Quesada

Justin Vernon’s revolutionary new project: Bon Iver (a French greeting for “good winter”) has put out it’s second official release since the critically acclaimed For Emma, Forever Ago put out by Jagjaguwar in 2007.

The new release, an EP titled Blood Bank, has given Bon Iver a new opportunity to expand on his neo-folk style. His first album had been recorded and produced over three months solely by Vernon himself in a cottage in upstate Wisconsin with a few ancient instruments and some simple recording equipment, while battle a case of mononucleosis. Vernon’s eccentric and in-depth personality has created a certain mystical aura around himself and his music. His fans fall for his music as much as they do for him. 

Blood Bank features five new tracks that were not released with the For Emma, Forever Ago record out in early 2008. While the style is essentially the same, Vernon has started toying around with “auto-tune.” Auto-tune is an audio processor created by Antares Audio Technologies that uses phase vocoders to correct a pitch in an artist’s vocals. It is usually used to disguise artist’s vocal faults, but when over-dubbed and over-used it creates an interesting layering effect. Auto-tune has recently become famous by the use of Kanye West on his single, “Love Lockdown.” Vernon explores the features of auto-tune on the track “Woods.”

“Woods,” even disregarding the auto-tune, is an interesting song in its own right. Like most of his music, he avoids the traditional folk standard format of intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, etc. “Woods” plays like a hymn. All vocals and with no chorus, he seems to lull the listener into a sense of safety and relaxation. With the only lyrics being, “I’m up in the woods/I’m down in my mind/I’m building a still/to slow down the time,” it really brings you right there with him.

While Vernon writes and records solo, he plays live shows with several other musicians, who mainly provide percussion and vocal back up. With the amount of overdubbing Vernon uses on most of his songs he invites much of his audience to participate in singing with him during live performances. He would even pass out lyrics to his songs before the show would start. In an interview with Pitchfork, Vernon described his dilemma. “I don’t want to be the guy with an acoustic guitar singing songs, because that’s boring for the most part. The song actually needs 80-500 people singing or whatever the vibe is of that room, it needs that fight.”

The bottom line is that with Bon Iver, Justin Vernon brings a new originality to the solo acoustic scene that it has desperately needed for some time. Although he is currently on an overseas tour, make sure to check him out when he comes back to the states. He is definitely worth the wait.