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4.6 out of 5 stars104
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 11 October 2012
This album took me completely by surprise. I stumbled upon it via my love for Talk Talk's utterly sublime album "Spirit of Eden" and reading reviews of that which mentioned Bon Iver as having been influenced by that masterpiece.

It has just got so under my skin with its subtle musicality and Justin Vernon's natural progression from his hugely well-received debut album "for Emma, Forever Ago" - a great album too.

But this album (the "difficult 2nd album") after such a cult success, is a natural progression of the searingly honest and painful emotions that made "For Emma" so important to so many people (check the reviews). It seems to me the sound of someone who is gradually healing and there's a more uplifting, full-bodied tone to most of these songs than the purposeful melancholy of "For Emma".

Whilst "Emma" is soft and delicate and mirrors the desolate iciness of where & when it was recorded this follow-up moves a similar but more vigorous and optimistic palette to what I feel is a much higher level of artistic accomplishment. He is helped in this by the absolutely superb array of musicians he has gathered around him.

The end result is an album that is a delight. But then it grows on you. And after repeated listens all the way through (it is one of those rare beasts ) you realise that this album and artist and band are going to remain a very important part of your musical life.

I cannot recommend this highly enough. One of my favourite albums ever - and I am 56 yrs old!! Solid gold 5 stars.
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on 28 August 2012
Trying to describe this album is like describing what water tastes of - impossible. Clichés were thrown around my head "a masterpiece" "hand-crafted by the Gods" but nothing prepares you for Bon Iver's second album, there is nothing I can compare it to & thus it is completely unique. Justin Vernon, pure of voice, master of the guitar and songwriter like no other brings together more than just conventional folk, more than just wailing falsetto echoes, he brings depth, beauty & magnificence in just the opening bars of the epic Perth. Songs named after USA states, some real, some fictitious (Hinnom, TX). The same nonsensical but powerful lyrics from days of For Emma, Forever Ago remain. Vernon isn't about to give up what makes Bon Iver such a phenomenon. Such bredth of instruments are moulded by Vernon, such a juxtaposition from For Emma where he recorded alone in a Wisconsin cabin with a guitar as his only friend. He's struck gold with bass sax, 2 drum kits, countless guitarists, percussion galore and not forgetting layer upon layer of fautless harmony, each spine-tingling note more compelling than the previous. Star track has to be `Beth/Rest', an almost cheesy synth filled 5 minutes of perfect harmonies and general wonder make this one of my favourite tracks of 2011. If you haven't already, check out this albums and you won't regret it.
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They say never judge a book by its cover, but before playing Bon Iver's self titled second album dig out 2008s little marvel "For Emma Forever Ago" and compare the sleeves since they say much about the music within. On the latter you will see a darkened tree covered in an icy "white out", while on his new album are greener forests and blue lakes in the middle of which lurks a small white house and to the right two large swathes of red. It's like coming out of chill albeit into early spring as opposed to blazing summer. This is reflected in the music contained on Bon Iver 2 which is a ambitious and expansive follow up by Justin Vernon to a record that's occupies a special place for lovers of music. Equally it would be wrong to suggest any sharp break here as those of you in the interim who sought out the lovely album by his drummer Sean Carey "We all grow" or Vernon's 2009 EP "Blood bank" will recognise some very familiar themes.

Here the painful honesty and isolated log cabin melancholy of "For Emma" is thoroughly downplayed (although not absent) but this remains an instantly recognisable Bon Iver record not least because of the presence of his trademark falsetto as he announces on the superb opening track "Perth" that "I'm tearing up, across your face/Move dust through the light/To find your name/It's only faint". Granted there are real gear changes all over the album and this song starts with an achingly slow electric guitar but flowers into a beast of a song with military drumming and by its close Emeralds style power chords. "Perth" segues into Minnesota WI, which is a gentle but funky track which shows that Vernon's time spent with Kanye West has paid off. The third track "Holocene" is probably the song on here that could have slipped onto "For Emma". It is a lush delight gently powered by Vernon's voice and beautiful guitar phrasing. As a starting trilogy these songs amount to a brilliant opening fusillade. Next up "Towers" is what could be described as straightforward Bon Iver song but "Michicant" follows it with exquisite textures and shimmers along making it an absolute standout. Throbbing synths and chanting follow next on "Hinnom TX" which picks up some Blood Bank themes, while the song "Wash" is full of opulent but hushed piano ballad interspersed with violins.

Many will have already heard the single "Calgary" and seen the watery dream like video on a song which powers up to a tremendous crescendo only to gently fade out. Trying to find different ways of saying "lovely" is becoming pointless because that what it is and it deserves widespread radio play as much as all good people deserve a big lottery win. It is followed by the slight instrumental "Lisbon OH" which has an almost Eno style ambience and then by the albums closer "Beth/Rest" which could end up splitting the jury. On first hearing this reviewer felt that it had a bad case of 1980s Bruce Hornsby schmaltz or could be one of those horrible soundtrack "Celtic" songs which producers use on documentaries about Scotland, Ireland or Wales. It does get better on repeated listens and for many this may well be the albums highlight. Yet having listened recently to Vernon's inspired cover of Peter Gabriel's "Come talk to me" suggests that perhaps a better and more apt conclusion was already recorded? Ultimately you will decide. In any case it's a small slip in an album that truly is a thing of beauty and which cements Justin Vernon's reputation as one of the finest songwriters in indie music, and the Bon Iver band who have turned into a very special unit. Perhaps in early listens this album does lack a "Re Stacks" moment of jaw dropping acoustic simplicity, but it makes up for this with an expansive set of songs that reveal more on every listen. Taken as a whole Bon Iver is an instant joy that we should warmly celebrate and speak of in hushed tones.
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on 8 April 2012
I've just heard this for the first time, and I have to say that my mind is a little blown by it. It seems impossible to categorise this album because it simply isn't like anything I've heard previously. It gives the impression of being utterly organic, deeply rooted in nature, and unconstrained by the formulas which dictate the progression of most music. Justin Vernon has created something impulsive, impenetrable and remarkable, an album which is bottomless but without a shade of artifice. It's not a particularly easy listen, but if you have any interest in innovative music then this comes highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 10 August 2012
Not often do you hear a thing of such instant appeal and beauty that you are driven to enquire after the artist and the piece.

Such a thing is undeniable!

A sound engineer put 'Perth' on in a gap between bands at a gig I was attending.

One listen was all it took, and I was hooked.

And then came here and wrote this.

It's got unusual production, distinctive vocals and an almost dream-like, indefinable quality, this album.

Buy it, and your life will be enriched.
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on 7 January 2012
This album is without doubt one of the best I have ever listened to. The way you can discover something new upon each listen is mesmerising and goes to show the sheer amount of effort and pure musical talent that went into the album. There is not a faultless track, with each offering a range of unique sounds alongside deeper meaning upon close listening. The sheer magnitude and scope of this album is unprecedented, partly due to it's ability to effortlessly evoke your emotions through the ethereal, tangible music and the stunning authenticity of Justin Vernon's voice. Listening to this transports you to a place of brilliant scenery which has never been achieved before personally. For those who dislike this or simply don't get it, check out professional reviews, as they speak volumes and show just how amazing this peice of music really is.
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on 2 November 2011
I had not heard of Bon Iver before purchasing this album a month ago (after reading some reviews of it), but it has been on repeat play ever since! It is a simply stunning, moving and original album. Normally reviews here offer comparisons with other artists to give a flavour of musical style, but with Bon Iver this can't be done - it occupies a musical space on its own as far as I can hear. It is also usual to identify the best (and possibly worst) tracks but, again, that doesn't really apply here - it is a proper, joined-up album where every track compliments the others. As such, I'd see it as one quite long piece of music (approx. 39 minutes for the album) rather tha a series of separate tracks. Don't listen to it on shuffle, as you'll miss out on the flow of songs from start to finish! Many adjectives could be offered to summarise the album - beautiful, spacious, melancholy in parts, elegant, intricate - I could go on. Put simply, however, this is one album that any lover of music shouldn't be without. Buy it!!
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on 13 June 2012
I bought this CD at Christmas and have been listening to it ever since. I still get excited by the prospect of listening to it and each time I listen to the first track am compelled to listen to the rest. Each song flows from one to the next like a continuous mass; always a good sign is that I still don't know what any of the tracks are called, they are all about as good as each other, nothing sticks out as being better or worse than the rest. Just writing about it makes me want to play it again.

If it's not in my top ten album's in the next five years I will be surprised, amongst which is Blood on the Tracks, Spirit of Eden, Born in the Sky (Lee Perry), Elephant etc.

I seem to the only person who didn't think the first album was that good. I liked it, but stopped listening after a couple of weeks. I will be playing this album for years. Brilliant.
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on 7 January 2013
I bought this album after having heard (and loving) one or two Bon Iver songs before, on a whim really, and I must say I absolutely love it. The songs are so beautifully written and have such emotion behind them as is evident! The opening song (Perth) is just beautiful, a lot of it is instrumental, but not boring or nothing-y as a lot of instrumentals can be. My other favourites from the album would have to Holocene, Towers and Beth/Rest which are some of the more famous off of the album, so would follow! However, all of the songs are great and I would really recommend this album. I would say the band is definitely an acquired taste - I can see that some people would really hate this - but people that are into Alternative/Indie Rock would most certainly enjoy it. A must-buy!
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on 14 May 2012
Every once in a while something hits me & knocks me over. Bon Iver entitled album did this. I liked earlier stuff but then heard Calgary, track 8, & bought album & love it. especially driving in a car for some reason...........
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