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.
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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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