Monday, January 26, 2009

Bon Iver- Blood Bank EP

Rating: 7.3
Released: Jan. 20, 2009

Bon Iver makes winter music.

It doesn't matter that Justin Vernon recorded his 2008 debut, For Emma, Forever Ago, while holed up in an old, drafty cabin.

The music just sounds like it was made for a blustery evening. Hushed guitars, check. Campfire vocals, check. Singer pining for a woman while the metaphorical wolves bark at the door, double check. I'm feeling chilly already.

It may come as a surprise then that the best track here finds Vernon singing about summer. "Summer comes/to multiply," he sings over a simple, repetitive piano chiming variations on the same note. This tune, titled "Babies," might remind you of LCD Soundsystem's 2007 stunner "All My Friends" without the full-band outro.

The important thing is it thaws any reservations that Bon Iver is going to record the same song over and over.

The first two songs on the four-track release tread the same ground as For Emma, but "Babies" and the a capella "Woods" are the real stunners.

In "Woods," Vernon uses a - GASP! - vocoder to layer his always haunting tenor, stacking vocals one upon another like a dusty Beach Boys tune.

It's a bold trick for a folk star, and it pays off. We might have seen this coming.

Vernon used the device, infamously popularized by hat-wearing geeks like T-Pain, sparingly on his first album. Let's hope he doesn't go Kanye West on it and O.D. in his next set.

EPs can serve a few purposes. Some are merely collections of leftover tracks immediately following a popular album. Others are rough drafts that can give clues on a rising star's direction.

Blood Bank
is likely the second of the two, and it should pacify Bon Iver's bloodthirsty, devoted fans at least until Vernon releases his next full-length.

- SoR

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