The mysterious storyline that emerged from Bon Iver's (Justin Vernon) For Emma, Forever Ago wouldn't have mattered had the album been a bust. On that album, Vernon's experimental falsetto was instantly haunting and yet strangely uplifting in most accounts. For Emma wrestled with failing friendships and the need to move away. The record felt less like someone trying to win over new fans and more like an artist conveying personal convictions. It did, however, drive a large flock of listeners into the now mythical cabin where these sounds materialized.
Bon Iver (the second from Vernon under the Bon Iver moniker) sounds exactly like his fans might expect or hope for. There's enough familiarity to keep wandering ears interested and Vernon's voice is still something of a brilliant head scratcher. He drives many songs with his dangerously high falsetto, but Vernon's focus on instrumentation really stretches this album into something grand. Bon Iver employs some saxophone, impeccable drum arrangements, slide guitar/strings and echoes that provide much-needed texture to all songs.
Vernon doesn't sound like he's moved too far from the isolated cabin themes. There's still a great deal of ache in his voice (on "Holocene," Vernon admits to not being magnificent), however, this album is certainly more collaborative than his previous Bon Iver recordings. The album opener "Perth" and the closer "Beth/Rest" provide bold, joyous sounds from a man who's surrounded himself with friends and created an album of which he's proud .
Bon Iver will certainly add to the already storied tale of how Vernon became an indie heartthrob and continue to send countless poets and songwriters into the quiet woods to attempt something beautiful.