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The Hawser Rolls – Thoughts on Bon Iver’s self-titled


– June 28, 2011; Harrison Dahme

Bon Iver

I was first introduced to this man’s dreamy acoustic music through a ski film – Signatures – which presented one of the most beautiful pieces of imagery I’ve ever seen. Bon Iver’s classic hits (as much as you can call them hits) would play while talented athletes flew through legendary powder. Somehow, the soft crooning would stick with the image of floating in knee-deep powder between Japanese pines. And it fit so perfectly – the almost indistinguishable words would mix with the flying snow to elicit a dream-like state.

The new self titled has carried this onward. The emphasis has been taken off the guitar and has been complimented with a backing band fond of 80s synths. Not Footloose synths, but classic Lionel Ritchie-esque keys. It’s clear that there’s more to his songwriting process than we once saw on For Emma. Though he once talked about sitting down with his guitar in the woods and writing about heartbreak and loss, it is clear he’s moved on. In the interim between releases, we’ve heard him sing hooks for Kanye, dipping his toes into R&B – a far cry from “Re: Stacks.”

Not only has the music itself changed, the lyrics have left behind the forlorn heartbreak, and picked up more of a tangential story-telling aspect. It’s harder to grasp. And I’m unsure if that’s due to the Sigur Ros approach to songwriting, or Vernon really being that obscenely metaphorical. Which I would be absolutely willing to give him credit for, as the album itself unfolds like a story, taking unexpected twists and turns, right from Perth to Beth/Rest.

Without a doubt, this is the most maturity we have seen from Vernon, with his songwriting in top-form. And at the risk of making it sound inapproachable, with his unmistakable voice, he has created a record which is able to convey deeper emotions, without spelling it out for his listeners, while packing the whole experience into his signature dreamy, slow and well thought out style.

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