Most helpful positive review
40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2009
Bon Iver (essentially Justin Vernon and a couple of bandmates) burst out of the frozen Wisconsin north woods in 2007 with "For Emma, Forever Ago" - a record of quiet, contemplative and deeply felt songs triggered by the ending of several relationships, both personal and professional. Vernon took advantage of his months of isolation to craft a set of emotionally direct songs that sometimes employed rather oblique lyrics, and his not-for-everybody falsetto singing was said to be either enchanting (most critics) or off-putting (many music fans).
But as word spread about "Emma" and Bon Iver played more and more live shows (even turning up on late night TV on rare ocassions) his fan base grew, and an increasing number of online reviews labeled "Emma" an emotional masterpiece.
If you're new to this artist, you should probably begin with "Emma" to get a sense of his unique style. Fans of that record, however, will find much to love on "Blood Bank," which contains several tunes written and/or recorded around the same time period. The title cut is especially strong, with sharp lyrics and strong guitar work.
The first three songs could easily be outtakes from "Emma," and all are easily the equal of anything found on that record. It's the final cut, "Woods" that is the wild card, and the one that is likely to sharply divide dedicated Bon Iver fans. Making use of the Auto-tune technology currently in vogue among hip-hop artists like L'il Wayne and Kanye West, Vernon electronically distorts his vocals to the point where he sounds almost machine-like. Repeating four simple phrases over and over ("I'm up in the woods/I'm down on my mind/I'm building a still/To slow down the time") and gradually adding high-pitched howls, the song builds to a kind of haunting grandeur, and the howls begin to sound like wolves far off in the distance on a frozen north woods evening. Some will hate it, but personally I think it's a stunner, and it hints to me that Bon Iver is an artist who is brave enough and talented enough to challenge himself and his fans. That's an encouraging sign for the future.