Some artists gain almost overnight success. Fleet Foxes came from nowhere to suddenly be the darlings of the music media, Ray Lamontagne did it years before with his album ‘Trouble’ gaining him wide aclaim. And Bon Iver’s debut record ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ projected him into the spotlight at an amazing pace. The problem with these meteoric rises of course is that the first album is always followed by the often more problematic second.
With Bon Iver there was the ‘Blood Bank’ ep in between albums one and two, as well as a number of contributions to the Dark Was The Night – a wonderful compilation put together by Bryce and Aaron Dessner of The National, which features a stunning track by the latter and Justin Vernon himself. So, it’s not that Vernon has been sitting twiddling his thumbs or wondering how he could possibly follow up such a successful debut. And the work in between albums acts as a lovely bridge for the two records.
Make no mistake, ‘Bon Iver’ is a stunning follow up to ‘For Emma…’ and will be on many people’s top 10 lists come the end of 2011. Whilst maintaining much of what made his debut so poignant and beautiful, Vernon has had the courage to add to his sound, without ever losing the fundamental beauty of his music. For his music is heartfelt and beautiful and fills me with great delight on every single listen. This remains, like his debut, an intimate and sublte record and requires many repeat listens to uncover and unfold the magic palette of sounds and instruments that envelop the record.
There is still a very skeletal feel to the record, Vernon never fully letting go of the sound that was born on ‘For Emma…’. However, the layers that have been added underneath add texture and, at times, a warmth that was missing from the debut. There is a definite sense of growth with this record and, for me, it’s one of the stand out records of 2011 so far.
I wish I’d bought tickets to see him at the Usher Hall when I was asked. Couldn’t afford them and now, having fallen in love with this album, I am gutted. Anyone who is going is lucky. Anyone who hears this record is lucky too. Just beauitful. You can, and should, check out Bon Iver here. Enjoy.