‘danger has been stole away’

Bon Iver – Bon Iver
(Jagjaguwar, 2011)

Over three years has past since Justin Vernon devastated everyone with For Emma, Forever Ago, cementing Emma‘s page in the history books as ‘worst girlfriend ever!’  Since then there have been girls in and out of the lives around me that give her a run for her money.  I have noticed most people go in one of two directions when someone they love no longer returns the favor…extreme depression or excessive partying.  Drop a few grand on a shrink or drop a few grand on a bartender.  Justin went a different direction, he locked himself in an isolated cabin for the Winter and experimented with sound.  Misery bouncing off the wooden walls, the echo his only friend.  When he emerged from that cabin, he had the blueprint for a breakup manifesto, a downhearted document of depression.  Having coined the phrase ‘skinny love‘, he emerged with a true masterpiece.

The story has taken on a life of it’s own and there were times it threatened to cannibalize the piece of art it birthed.  But the material was just too strong.  So strong that Justin didn’t know how to follow it, but instead of going back into hiding, he kept himself busy touring behind the album, releasing material as Gayngs and Volcano Choir and even collaborating with artists as diverse as Anaïs Mitchell and Kanye West.  The Blood Bank EP in 2009 was a testimony to Justin‘s talent and introduced Bon Iver as a true band, proving that Emma was not the beginning and the end.  But it was too little, too soon and will probably be a forgotten middle child now that ten new songs have been released to the world.  Ten new songs that rival anything that came before.

Bon Iver opens with Perth.  You immediately recognize the band, they now have a trademark sound.  Then Justin‘s voice enters ‘I’m tearing up, acrost your face‘.  The marching band literally marches across the track, leaving Emma in the dust. Follow the drum majors away from frozen huts in the woods, follow them to exotic places like Minnesota, WI, Hinnom, TX, Calgary, Lisbon, OH and even Bon Iver, Bon Iver…not only a band, it is now a destination.

There is no doubt this is the same man who created Emma, but like The Antlers, Bon Iver has grown into a full fledged band.  What started as the misery of one man is now a collaborative effort.  The maturity here is a realization that this album wasn’t a choice, it was what had to come next.  When Justin repeats ‘never gonna break, never gonna break‘ like a mantra, he is assuring us as much as himself.  Unbreakable.  Unlike Burst Apart, the meaning implicit in the majority of these tracks is not easily deciphered, but I think that is by design.  Take this album, take its position and make it your own.  Bon Iver, Bon Iver is a safe place.  This time you don’t have to worry about hypothermia or dying of a broken heart.  The scariest thing around here is the ghost of ‘80’s heartland rock’ who shows up on closing track, Beth/Rest…but if that’s the way this journey has to end, then that’s just the way it is.

Bon IverCalgary