Bon Iver | Blood Bank EP
Most Likely To: tide you over until the next record, if you can ignore the Auto-Tune.
Packaged as a tidy 4-song offering to ease us down gently from the pitch perfect For Emma, Forever Ago, Justin Vernon and Co. give us a glimpse of what’s to come. Having rounded out the band with two other members, the expanded line-up takes a step away from the exquisite pain of For Emma and take a confident leap into a broader narrative form.
I’ve already given my knee jerk reaction to “Woods,” the last song on this disc, and repeated listens have only solidified my position. This song, which would have been a beautiful multi-tracked a capella meditation, is buried in the effect. This is sure to be the deal-breaker song on the EP. Some people will eat it up, others like me will shriek in discomfort.
Perhaps it could be presented as an argument that Auto-Tune can be used to augment the human voice so as to render it a different instrument altogether. It seems more like calling diarrhea milk chocolate. You can bet that your tongue would know the difference.
By comparison, the other three songs on the EP are triumphant. Vernon could sing the latest unemployment figures, and as long as he applied his trademark soft soulfulness, you’d want to play it at full blast while you sat by your window at dusk watching as the light is pulled from the sky. His voice shimmers, and the storytelling he employs on Blood Bank strives for coherence more than what he presented on his debut.
Starting with the title track in winter, we are given vignettes for every season, each song evoking in their turn the need for warmth in the barren season, renewal and regeneration, dogged repetition in the dead heat of summer, and the forceful reckoning of the ephemeral when the leaves fall from the trees. Its clear that Justin Vernon is stretching out his narrative skills here, emerging from that solitary cabin where he wrenched the hurt and forged his beautiful debut. Naysayers may pooh-pooh this new material as lacking the instantly discernible frequency that only the forlorn can project, but Bon Iver clearly isn’t content to wallow in the mire for the sake of a song.
As he continues to seek out the beauty and the joy and the sadness of a simple story well told, here’s to hoping he’ll lay off the effects and let his voices be his guide.
Listen to “Blood Bank” from Bon Iver: