Bon Iver’s fourth outing maximises collaboration to produce either the finest collage of the band’s effort or delivers a pastiche without backbone. I can’t decide. (…and I’m not naming it as it is impossible to type accurately with autocorrect!)
It is rare that a reviewer publishes without reaching a clear view. I nearly posted on Friday when it appeared on streaming services 3 weeks early. Having only listened twice, knowing Bon Iver albums take time to reveal themselves, and having had a few drinks with friends, I decided against publishing my initial reaction.
I’ve listened 4-5 more times now. I’m not much wiser. This album is a collage of ideas already explored on the previous 3 albums. This means the fresh innovation we have come to expect is not in full force. Given the tight turnaround for the record during which time they have toured almost constantly, this is maybe not a surprise.
This album provides another 40 minutes in Bon Iver’s sonic world. If you can’t decide between the isolation of the first album, the embellished full band sound of the second or the next generation electronic experimentation of the third, this will scratch the itches of all of them but are also likely to be left wanting more.
Hey, Ma is one of the best songs Justin has ever written but it sticks out on this record as one with the least interference from collaborators. There is a strong run of tracks from there through to Faith which creates a beautiful core however the tracks either side of this run seem to be perfunctory and just generally not as complete an experience as you can find on the other records.
It is a beautiful extension of the catalogue and rounds off the quartet of albums. I wish there was a bit more to grip on to initially but each listen will certainly reveal more of the record and that is a hugely exciting. Do I see this surpassing the other records on ranked lists? No. No I don’t. However, Vernon only does excellent records and means that this is still miles ahead of any competition and is something to behold.
(Originally published on Instagram – 13 August 2019)