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Alternative & Indie - Released June 20, 2011 | 4AD

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music - Sélection Les Inrocks - Stereophile: Recording of the Month
Part of the beauty of Bon Iver’s debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago, was the intimate, backwoods feel of the recording and the simplicity of Justin Vernon’s soaring, open wound of a voice with only minimal musical backing to distract from its impact. Even though Vernon had a few other people playing on the album, it was easy to imagine a solitary broken soul spilling his guts onto tape for hours at a time while the world went on without him. It was a truly aching, somewhat claustrophobic sound that was beautiful and unique. After a couple years in which his life was basically turned upside down thanks to the success of For Emma, Vernon’s second album is quite different. Where For Emma was stripped down and intimate, Bon Iver is packed with guest musicians, horn sections, strings, and extra vocalists. Every inch of sonic space is filled with sound, each one fighting for space and distracting from Bon Iver’s strength, namely Vernon’s vocals. It’s probably unfair to expect Vernon to replicate the sound of For Emma, but he could have found a middle ground between tender restraint and totally overdoing it. Instead, he’s working like mad to distance himself from the sound he established so well in a desperate attempt to make a “masterpiece” instead of For Emma, Pt. 2. Perhaps if he were a more skilled producer and arranger, things would have been better. Unfortunately, his style comes off more like sub-Enya with a beard than a true studio wizard. The muted, over-washed sound of the record is murky when it should be mysterious, flat when it should be 3-D, and his reliance on clichéd synth sounds is somewhat perplexing. While most of the record is underwhelming sonically, the last track, "Beth/Rest," is laughable. Sounding like it was recorded using a five-dollar Casio and featuring some of the worst dueling sax/guitar solos you’d ever imagine, it shoots for a majestic, album-ending feel but instead sounds like the theme song to a horrible '80s movie about unicorns (only not that good). Despite disasters like that, there are still enough moments of tender beauty and restraint to remind you why Bon Iver is worth caring about. The relatively restrained "Wash," which pits Vernon’s aching vocal orchestra against a jagged, repeating piano line (and only minimal strings and pedal steel), the first two-thirds of "Holocene" (before the mix bursts with saxes and unnecessary effects), the simple and affecting "Michicant" (if you can ignore the distractions) -- these have hints of the grace and understated emotion that made For Emma what it was. Hints aren’t enough to make the record a success, though, and by reaching too far, Vernon and Bon Iver fall flat with a huge thud. It’s a shame Vernon felt he had to take Bon Iver outside the cabin and into the world. He was doing just fine on his own and didn’t need all those people and instruments cluttering up the air. “Woods” proved that all Vernon needed to break a heart was his voice and some Auto-Tune. Though he can be praised for not just copying himself and trying to progress, to be honest, For Emma, Pt. 2 would have been far more satisfying than this overblown debacle. ~ Tim Sendra
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i,i

Alternative & Indie - Released August 9, 2019 | Jagjaguwar

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
“There’s similarities and tributaries through all the Bon Iver records leading to this one and that still flow through this one. It’s an expansive sound”. This is how Justin Vernon, the driving force behind Bon Iver, defines his fourth studio album. 12 years of his life have passed, during which his project went from the wintry solitude of For Emma, Forever Ago, to the chamber-pop spring of its eponymous record, to the feverish summer glitch storm of 22, A Million. This fourth season didn’t come easy, either. The promotional tour for the aforementioned third album ended abruptly, due to Vernon’s struggle with anxiety and depression. i,i was created in that aftermath, as a synthesis of his career – a multi-layered autumn where sonic landscapes flow one into the other, and impressionistic instrumentals, glitchy samples and vocal harmonies pile on top of each other seamlessly, before being torn away to reveal the bare bones canvas lying beneath. This retrospective approach to his music is interlaced with cryptic lyrics that seem to ponder Vernon’s misanthropic tendencies: “I should've known / That I shouldn't hide/ To compromise and to covet/ All what’s inside “ he mourns on the electro-folk crescendo of Faith, undercut by growling bass and haunting background vocals. On the album closer RABi, which is a play on the words “I could rob, bye bye”, Bon Iver seems to find peace at last, in a side nod to listeners: “Sun light feels good now, don't it? And I don't have a leaving plan/ But something's gotta ease your mind/ But it's all fine, or it's all crime anyway “. It’s a cathartic finish, for a troubled artist who seems to have temporarily fought off his demons, as well as the audience – we who’ve followed him and applauded him since the beginning. © Alexis Renaudat/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 12, 2008 | 4AD

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 30, 2016 | Jagjaguwar

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
The master of fuzzy folk and melancholy country, Justin Vernon showed his genius when For Emma, Forever Ago, his first album produced under the Bon Iver moniker, came out in 2008. This ghostly, entirely mad and haunting folk masterpiece was dreamt up after he isolated himself in the depths of winter for three months in a Wisconsin cabin! The harmonic cathedrals, the mystery of the organ possessed by true grace: everything was miraculous. But Vernon quickly shook off his folk convictions to try out a range of electronic experiences. These changes were apparent on Bon Iver’s second album, simply called Bon Iver, which contained nods to minimalists Steve Reich and Philip Glass and tracks on which the intriguing bearded artist thought himself more a Brian Eno than a Brian Wilson... Five years after this eponymous record, and having worked through some surprising and fascinating collaborations (James Blake, Kanye West, Travis Scott and St Vincent), the updated Mr Bon Iver is re-emerging with 22, A Million. It is this  third album which finally brings together all his experience right from the start. And whether the result is a folktronica carbon copy or not, Justin Vernon succeeds more than ever in merging the worlds of folk and electronic music without either of the two sides managing to tug too hard in their own direction. As for the singing, his falsetto is still just as affecting even when manipulated and tinkered with. And when he uses openly abrasive sounding tones and elements more from soul, the result is impressively dreamy. Like a melancholy, meditative symphony at the heart of an immense cathedral. To add to this fascinating mystery, Justin Vernon has enjoyed giving his ten new compositions unpronounceable (or almost unpronounceable) titles. An experience unlike any other. © MD/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 20, 2009 | Jagjaguwar

Bon Iver's debut album made a huge splash in 2008, receiving both critical acclaim and near-mainstream popularity as the record fanned out over indie rockers, alt-folk fans, and lovers of quietly emotional and frequently inspiring songs sung by a dude with the voice of an angel. All the adulation was well deserved, because For Emma, Forever Ago is the kind of record that manages to capture a musician's soul and transmit it in a way that truly connects with a large array of listeners. It's an impressive achievement and one that holds up over many listens. Released in 2009, the Blood Bank EP is both a pause for breath for Justin Vernon and a reminder why so many people fell so deeply in love with the record and the sound he created. Recorded over a couple years and in various locations, the EP sounds like outtakes from Emma, but not in a bad way. "Blood Bank," with its subtly propulsive drums and idiosyncratic lyrics, would have been one of the album's best moments. The same goes for the more experimental but still beautiful "Babys," which features both some gently jarring piano and Vernon's soothing, multi-tracked falsetto. The only stretch Vernon makes here is on the closing "Woods" -- in a somewhat bold move, he embraces Auto-Tune and warps his vocals into almost unrecognizable shapes. Starting off as a lone voice, he begins to harmonize with himself and then adds layers of warbling vocals until the song builds to a frenzied, backwoods R&B symphony of weirdness. It's a move that could send lots of people into fits of disbelief but strangely enough, it works -- especially over headphones, where the vocals can envelope you completely. It's probably a direction Vernon won't follow, but it's an interesting experiment that keeps the record from sounding like outtakes (worthy outtakes, but outtakes all the same) from For Emma, Forever Ago. ~ Tim Sendra
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Alternative & Indie - Released June 4, 2019 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released June 3, 2019 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 12, 2019 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 12, 2019 | Jagjaguwar

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Pop/Rock - Released September 15, 2008 | 4AD

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 12, 2016 | Jagjaguwar

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 30, 2016 | Jagjaguwar