It has been through their subtle imagery that Bon Iver’s albums have followed a flawless pattern.
2008’s For Emma, Forever Ago painted a bleak winter, the eponymous follow-up evoked a frenzied spring, and 22, A Million found Bon Iver in the full bloom of summer.
We now approach autumn in the world of Bon Iver, a new season that doesn’t arrive without its own set of chaos. Introduced by “Yi” and sharply followed by “iMi”, both tracks are illustrated by a daunting and echoing radio static which carries the distorted vocals on its burdened shoulders. The lyrics “I like you / And that ain’t nothing new” as the song draws to a close provide a stark comedown from all the madness.
It is not all chaotic, however. Moments of atmospheric bliss that have become commonplace on Bon Iver records are still intact on this instalment. “Faith” is emphasised by an impactful, crashing crescendo, whilst “Holyfields,” with its climbing synths paint a steady and assured track.
Tangled in amongst the usual quirks of Bon Iver’s craft lie moments of sheer pop genius. “Hey, Ma” being the most exceptional. A song fit for radio and the pinnacle of easy listening, it further demonstrates their universal appeal. “U Man (Like)”, though contrasting many of Iver’s previous work, is nothing short of remarkable. The pop-esque melodies and the cool and sophisticated feel make it truly irresistible.
This is an album that you can feel as well as experience, perhaps the most complete Bon Iver album to date. Justin Vernon’s emotive approach to the album balances the individual and the communal with perfect precision. With a firmer grasp on reality and a new and brighter perspective, a unique mix of creativity and bewilderment remains at the core of Bon Iver.