Bon Iver burst onto the indie rock scene with his 2007 album For Emma, Forever Ago. He had found a sound that was unique and critically revered. After years in the music business he was suddenly a success. He was led to great places including a performance on Late Night With David Letterman. The Letterman performance was lead singer Justin Vernon on guitar and 3 drummers. I still consider it the greatest late night talk show performance of all time. When all 3 drums kick in it is almost orgasmic.
After a lengthy hiatus Bon Iver returned with the self-titled Bon Iver in 2011. Lead Singer and Bon Iver mastermind Justin Vernon surrounded himself with a wall of sound for the return. Not a loud wall of sound but more like a wall of ambiance. The record is filled with string arrangements and various instruments and sounds credited to a 12 people listed in the liner notes.
Vernon’s signature echo vocals fill the album and with the big voice and all the instrumentation the music hardly has enough room to breathe. Sounds are piled on top of one another taking away the coarseness of the music and creating a smooth amorphous sound. Gone are the unique solo strums of an old guitar and the brilliant sounds of fingers sliding across the strings.
The album keeps up a constant pace like on the lead track “Perth.” The rest of the song fall in place afterwords. Vernon could have taken Bon Iver in one of two directions on this record, he simply took it the other way than what I would have preferred.