The mention of Bon Iver’s music is often met with the stirring of many emotions. I myself will always be able to remember the first time I heard “Skinny Love” (riding in the passenger seat with my current romantic interest, the windows down, a calm cool night in North Carolina, and all of a sudden this voice on the speakers starts whispering to me everything I was feeling at that moment with graduation only a few weeks away: “skinny love just last the year…”).
I was in love.
Generally speaking, most people that have fallen for the raw grace of For Emma, Forever Ago will have a similar story to mine. The emotions wrapped in that album are so powerful and real (after all, they were written for a girl following a break-up) that you can’t help but relate to them. For a debut album, it was significant. It connected to people and created ties between listeners and the song-writer/singer. Ties that have held us to wait and wonder what Bon Iver has to offer us next.
I can’t usually stand to read reviews. All the fancy music terminology reviewers use, obscure references they throw in just to make us feel stupid, and nit-picky ways to say “yeah this could have been better” (I’d love to see them do better). When I tell someone about an album I prefer to stick to basics: loved it, hated it. Let people decide for themselves. I know music is art and critics will always exist to tell us what we should or shouldn’t be listening to. But that doesn’t mean we have to listen to them.
As of now, I refuse to read a review for Bon Iver, the self-titled second album that will be released June 21st. The album is currently streaming at NPR and while checking out the album I couldn’t help but notice two phrases: “Grand, chance-taking record” and “dares to be dreamy” (okay so maybe I read a few paragraphs of the NPR write-up).
“Chance-taking” ? “Dreamy” ?
I have had this album on repeat for the last 3 hours. All I can say is that I am incredibly impressed with this album. The fact that Justin Vernon did not make another Emma is all that I could have ever hoped for and yet this album surpasses his first in a way that I never thought would be possible. To think that an artist could hit such high acclaim after only one album was nearly inconceivable. The emotional connection is still there from the first album, but this time the lyrics are less clear (even hard to make out at times). At first listen, Bon Iver is not much of a departure from Emma in terms of sound and meaning, but rather clarity. I love when artists do something different, I love when they challenge themselves, and I especially love when it works. So maybe he did take some chances. This album has me literally holding my breath at times- starting with the drums and horns in “Perth” and ending with the miracle of electric sound that is “Beth/Rest”. That didn’t quite exist in a straight forward guitar album like Emma. At least not in the same way. I can’t help but feel lost in this album, and I like that.
This album is called Bon Iver for a reason. It’s not for Emma this time. It’s not for anyone really (or it might be, but I am blissfully unaware because I am refusing to read reviews). It’s the next step in Justin Vernon’s musical journey. And I am so happy to be a part of it.