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VINE VOICEon 20 January 2009
After an artist has had critically acclaimed and successful debut album the pressure is on them for the follow up. Will it be as good? Will it see them change what it was that made them flourish in the first place. Bon Iver,s Justin Vernon has got around the thorny problem of following up the brilliant For Emma Forever Ago by releasing a four track E.P. Bearing in mind that the material on Bloodank was recorded between December 2006 and January 2007 it doesn't represent a massive step forward but it does peel off on a couple of unexpected tantalising tangents.
The title track is the best song on here. A quite brilliant song with the superb vocals high in the mix over artfully strummed guitar chords till the brief refrain of "I know it well " where Venons voice becomes all hushed like he's imparting a painful secret .The feedback at the end is nice abrasive touch as well.
The brief "Beach Baby" is probably the song most redolent of Emma Forever but while it is , as ever, superbly sung it is the weakest track here. "Babys" is where it gets interesting in the sense of something dissimilar emerging .Built around a plonking one note piano chord with intervening bouts of shifty silence it ascends to something almost desperate. "Woods" has vocoded choral vocals overlapping in various keys to the again hazily frantic conclusion.
As an appendix to Emma Forever Bloodbank is well worth hearing .It offers the listener much of what they probably cherished about the album while giving tantalising and possibly surprising hints at just how far this gifted artist could go .
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on 24 January 2009
Vocoders: yes or no? The use of such synthesized vocals took a big dip in fashion between its Kraftwerk and ELO heyday and its minor resurgence under the auspices of so-called Chill Out acts such as Air and Bent. However, it is a sound probably most commonly associated these days with urban music - from R'n'B to Hip Hop and Garage - which is why 2008's favourite log-cabin dwelling folk experimentalist Bon Iver (aka Justin Vernon) seems an unlikely exponent of this divisive tool. His stunning album, 'For Emma, Forever Ago', was an intimate acoustic album with lo-fi electronic shadings, very rustic, not very bling. But it did use Auto-Tune to thicken and add impressionistic bite to his vocals on some tracks, albeit fairly sparingly - quite unusually for a folk artist (though I anticipate someone contradicting me here). 'In the Woods', one track on his new, stop gap EP 'Blood Bank', is a kind of Auto-Tune a capella, a layer cake of soulful, heavily synthesized - but thematically bucolic - harmonies. It will sound one of two ways, depending on how disposed you are to such textures: either like Craig David ad libbing on a country walk or the work of a bold musical maverick (i.e., not Craig David ad libbing on a country walk). I haven't decided yet.

Setting 'In the Woods' aside, 'Blood Bank' is a low-key four track release, presumably to keep appetites whetted for Vernon's next full-length. The vocals on the eponymous track are throatier, huskier than we're accustomed to from him, with a pleasing hook adding levity to murky production which is finally subsumed in a fog of Jim O'Rourke-esque distortion. 'Beach Baby' is the lilting falsetto ballad that perhaps Vernon is eager to avoid becoming expected to write (lovely though it is) featuring a deliciously offbeat country twang with a Hawaiian accent. Think of Wilco's underrated 'Sky Blue Sky' for clues. The more expansive, experimental 'Babys' drifts on a Philip Glass-esque piano refrain, but doesn't quite engage in the ways it promises to. An interim release rather than a taster of things to come, 'Blood Bank' will satisfy the already won-over - Vocoders and all - but may not convince the unconverted.
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on 11 January 2009
Bon Iver has produced a nice little filler for those of us avidly awaiting his next album. Blood bank offers 4 new songs, each quite different. 'Blood bank' could have fitted nicely on the last album, a gentle reverby acoustic number which builds beautifully through the song. 'Beach baby' is a quiet, lightly strummed ode, sung in his high falsetto. 'Babys', recalls Steve Reich/Sufjan Stevens, with simple repetitive figures on piano - a mood piece, with vocals introduced half-way through - sublime. 'Woods' is less interesting perhaps, a beach boys like song sung through synthesisers.

All in all, for the 1st and 3rd songs alone, this is a worthy addition for fans. Bring on the next album!
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on 28 January 2010
First off - I am one of those who absolutely loved For Emma... in that it hit me right in the chest and didn't let go.

Blood Bank has kept him in there and built on an already solid foundation that keeps me coming back for more.

I have never listened to an artist that conveys a sense of bewildering loss better than Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and I'm not sure I ever will. The connection is amazing. Our circumstances are nothing alike yet I feel myself listening to his records over and over again.

Blood Bank is a taster of more brilliance that I hope to embrace in the future. The title track has me on the verge of tears every time I hear it. Lyrics that brilliantly portray an emotion that only people who have experienced love and unfortunately loss can appreciate.

I'm sorry but at the moment no-one out there can touch him. If you like music that has feeling then you could do a damn site worse than spend some cash on Bon Iver.
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on 23 January 2010
One of the most lauded albums in State's 2008 poll, For Emma... left many a mouth salivating for more of Justin Vernon's music. Perfectly plugging a gap and keeping interest keen, these four new songs are certainly the most anticipated EP we can remember round these parts recently. Back in late '08 we were treated to a live unveiling of the title track along with `Babys'. While the latter was politely received, `Blood Bank' itself was a glorious punch to the chest, all beefed up compared to the the album, and carrying a beat like a steam train.

Unfortunately, the brawn is missing off this recorded version and it is back to the softly softly approach which served the album so well. It is still however, a fine tune, the story in its lyrics telling a visual tale of blood and inclement weather - and of course being trapped in a car in a snowdrift with a girl. The powerful live version just offered a glimpse of a new, bigger sound and it really suited the singer and the song. `Beach Baby' is very much in the mode of the album songs, but it really suits its quiet shell and the shimmering slide guitar within.

`Babys' is a simple song about how summer make us all want to procreate - and it's repeated high piano notes make it somewhat lullaby-ish though it may be the slight boredom inherent in it that had your reviewer a little dozy. `Woods' is classic EP fare ( it would be hard pushed to fit in anywhere else). It sees Vernon messing with auto-tune (it's not just for Kanye y'know) and it's obviously the release of creative steam. Similar to some of the less successful songs from his earlier Hazletons album, it comes across as self-indulgent and, by the end, annoying. It's quite possible this was the last song he recorded in his For Emma... log cabin. The one that said "go home, your work is done".

An interesting collection of tunes, suited to an EP and definitely playing it not give-the-people-what-they-want safe, which is a plus. There is massive future potential in Bon Iver's sound to spread in many different ways and this is probably the sound of a search rather than anything new and specific being found.
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on 26 January 2009
Bon Iver's Blood Bank provides a four-track attempt to stave off difficult-second-album syndrome, and in doing so has allowed for an experimental outlet to either showcase his new direction or just to trial a phase. However, fans need not worry; for, at the record's core is Vernon's icy folk debut, layered in parts and stripped in others.

The titular track `Blood Bank' opens with a convincing and worrying Chris Martin vocal performance and as such, risks dragging the whole, sympathetic but unengaging sound into mediocrity. Happily, Vernon pulls it out of the bag, and then some. The acoustic pick-up builds into a pleasing shuffle before collapsing in a wall of droning feedback and leaves the impression of a slow-burn classic in the making.

`Beach Baby' follows the For Emma Forever Ago template more closely utilising the trademark falsetto-folk to good effect, allowing the track to burrow under the skin. A Hawaiian steel-string riff plays out over half the track and compliments the echo-y strumming well.

`Babys' embraces Vernon's distancing from the debut and starts with a minute and a half of lively piano that recalls a bright winter's morning and a chase across recent snowfall (un bon hiver indeed, therefore). The piano is then stripped back to a quieter accompaniment and the gentle slide of his acoustic guitar, before building back into a jittery, excitable piano and harmonious guitar marriage. It closes bathetically, having built to nothing more than a breathless romp through bucolia. Vernon knows the adage well of less often equally more, and has consciously decided to be coy with the listener, very much leaving him wanting more. And, in `Woods', he potentially gives it to him.

`Woods' is a peculiar concept, peculiarly executed. Vernon employs a vocoder (think Cher in Believe, although no where near as awful) to startling effect. He layers his own vocals as backing, and conducts the whole track with little more than a few phrases on a cappella loop. This is a bold track which identifies boundless potential.

As a whole, the EP sounds slightly awkward, straddling the future and Emma, as it were. It is as if Vernon is finally finding his feet after exorcising her with the debut, and is now making new-born, Bambi-like steps toward the future, stumbling and blinking on the journey.

In postponing the second album, this EP does very nicely and will satiate most appetites. Whether the new direction will follow this stumbling beginning is yet to be seen, but now, on exiting the forest, Vernon should have the room to bloom. Spring may well, it would appear, have just started in the heart of Bon Iver.
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on 23 November 2012
Bon iver could record silence and still make it sound epic. I cannot help but like anything this guy does, he is so talented and can create a silence in a song and have you waiting on the next note. Time after time its always as good as the first. Only four songs all of which are good but "the woods" will probably only be for the die hard fans unless you like auto tune alot
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on 1 September 2013
Fans of Bon Iver's earlier work should probably steer clear of this one.

The energy and pomp of his first few hit singles are sadly missing here. No Living On A Prayer or You Give Love A Bad Name present.

In fact they hardly sound like the same band any more
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VINE VOICEon 13 April 2009
Four new tracks, four new gems. A nice move forward from the album For Emma, yet still one can trace the lineage.

So, without going in to war and peace style verse it's simple to sum this up. One, it's a bargain, second, it;s more beautiful music from Bon Iver, 3, what are you waiting for?

A class act.
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on 2 April 2014
This record will change you in ways you never imagined were possible, in parts of your heart you never imagined existed.
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