So the new(ish) Bon Iver album has already made itself comfortable in my list of favourite albums of the year/possibly ever.
As a casual scan of any review will tell you, it's a very different record from 'For Emma...', which, as I'm sure you all know, he wrote holed up in a cabin in the woods after a bad break up. It was a beautifully sparse, folky affair, but this self titled follow up is bigger; much bigger - for evidence just try the final track Beth/Rest, which is unashamedly 80s... an epic. Overall, percussion is more prominent, and one of the most obvious differences is the new inclusion of a far wider variety of instruments - listen out for sweeping string lines (Towers), electric distortion and plenty of brass (check out those cheeky saxophones in Minnesota, WI).
But, the one thing that hasn't changed is that voice. There's something so unique and instantly recognizable about Justin Vernon's falsetto vocals, along with the way he layers them up with those shimmering harmonies. The way he can convey emotion through his voice alone surpasses, I reckon, the majority of artists today who are attempting to do the same thing. Even his diction in pronouncing certain words seems to hold some sort of power.
So, in a word, it's magical. Please do watch this:
What I love most about this video of one of my favourite tracks on the album, Holocene, is that is showcases that amazing sense of this album being a group effort. This isn't just Vernon's game any more, it's all of theirs. Another thing that this live performance highlights is something that I mentioned earlier - the new orchestral feel Bon Iver have employed is clear; just watch/listen to 3:37 onwards - it sounds like a chamber orchestra tuning up for a performance. Also, if you watch carefully you'll see many of the band picking up multiple different instruments throughout the track, along with singing harmonies, shaking shakers, et al. This level of musicianship, I dig... But I suppose since I'm a musician myself this might be a selling point for me a little more than for some others. Still. Amazing, magical, beautiful.