Bon Iver — “Calgary”

Justin Vernon couldn’t really try and replicate the mood of For Emma, Forever Ago: it was so intricately connected to a particular time, place, and set of circumstances, that any attempt to make a direct follow-up would probably have been disingenuous and fruitless. Instead, his second album as Bon Iver, which is self-titled, promises to take advantage of new people, new emotions, new surroundings.

“There’s a fire going out,
But there’s really nothing to the south.”

Our first taster of the post-Kanye West Bon Iver is “Calgary”, and it immediately differentiates itself from what came before with a churchlike opening; a multi-tracked Vernon intones over an organ that’s been filtered through a sea of clouds. It sounds more relaxed, less on edge, and when the drums creep in, they sound like they’re echoing around a stadium. There’s a brief squall of a battered guitar, but the overall texture is hazy and ethereal. The use of quasi-choral textures recalls 10cc and Talk Talk; the way the song dissipates into the gloaming suggests the breaking of a camp in the dewy morning, imagery intensified by the lyrics.

I don’t expect all of Bon Iver to sound like “Calgary”—it features guest contributions from a “free-jazz monster” (Colin Stetson) and the pedal steel player Greg Leisz, after all. What’s more, I suppose you can’t really think of it as a solo album any more, given that Vernon recorded it alongside his regular live band. Above all, I hope it lives up to the gorgeous album artwork, which was painted and assembled by the Minnesotan artist Gregory Euclide. The painting on the cover, pictured right, is breathtaking, as are some of the auxiliary works being used elsewhere in the album.

Bon Iver drops on 4AD Records on 20th June, 2011.

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