Attention Justin Vernon fans. If you aren’t familiar with his other projects: Big Red Machine, Volcano Choir, the Shouting Matches and Deyarmond Edison, now might be the time to check them out. If you are looking for the eerily stunning folk ballads that hooked you on For Emma, Forever Ago, now might be the time to YouTube his first solo album Self Record. On LP #4 i,i, it’s evident that Bon Iver is no longer what it used to be. Vernon picked up where he left off on the last album 22, A Million with more experimental styles and effects.
‘iMi’ is the first exciting song on the album. Vernon demonstrates his impressive vocal range, as well as production skills. The catchy drumbeat tracks, mixed with the vocal melodies, makes this song one of the more memorable songs. ‘Hey Ma’, the first single from the album, gains power and attention from the sing along lyrics. This song is definitely a fan favorite on the album, as its instrumentation and soothing dynamics makes you want to listen again and again.
The following track, ‘U (Man Like)’, is an original piano instrumental written by the legendary Bruce Hornsby. After Vernon heard it, Justin asked him if he could write vocals to the song and now it has been released as a Bon Iver track. Phil Cook (Hiss Golden Messenger, Deyarmond Edison) is also on piano on this track since it’s a masterpiece of duelling double piano.
Track seven ‘Naeem’ is another highlight of the album. A repeated phrase in the lyrics on this track is “I can hear, I can hear crying” which is portrayed beautifully in Vernon’s wooing falsetto. Track ten, ‘Marion’ is the closest to the initial Bon Iver sound that Vernon has returned to on this album. The pretty acoustic guitar melody matched with the high pitched singing of “Well I thought that this was half of love,” sounds exactly like it was one of the songs Vernon worked on in isolation, in that cabin in the woods, for For Emma, Forever Ago.
The last two standout songs on the album are ‘Salem’ and ‘RABi’. While ‘Salem’ brings a dancey, edgy vibe to the record, ‘RABi’ closes the album out on a more serious and pensive mood.
Although Bon Iver have matured into a more experimental indie rock sound, leaving folk back in that cabin in the woods, the band still manages to prove that they are an exciting group to track in the industry. Now lets all keep an eye out for some Big Red Machine news hopefully in the near future…
Scott J. Herman