Unless you have been hiding under a rock in a forest very far away from Wisconsin or you’ve never read The Music Ninja before, you are probably familiar with Bon Iver. Justin Vernon—the indie-folk singer/songwriter behind Bon Iver—has come to be synonymous with the genre itself, and rightfully so; his debut album For Emma, Forever Ago was a masterpiece that was practically unrivaled in emotion and sincerity. And after what seems like an extraordinarily long time spent on other projects or collaborations… enter their sophomore self-titled album Bon Iver.

From the very first guitar string plucked in album opener “Perth” you know this isn’t going to be a repeat of For Emma, Forever Ago, and I mean that in the best way possible. While his debut album had a very delicate and remarkable sound to it that was guided purely by an acoustic guitar and some clever instrument playing and mixing, Bon Iver instead has a full, rich, and equally impressive sound. It’s not so much a change of styles as it is a progressive evolution of sound.

That isn’t to say that every new sound and evolution found in Bon Iver will be a welcome one to their fans. Tracks like “Holocene” and “Michicant” are guided by the same delicacy and gently plucked guitar strings as most (if not all) of the tracks found on his debut album, and are therefore much more familiar and much more welcoming than the seemingly foreign and polarizing album-closer “Beth/Rest.”

On an album like Bon Iver it’s hard to pick out standouts. Most—if not all—of the tracks reach levels of perfection rarely found in music today. The aforementioned and previously released “Calgary” is seemingly the perfect realization of Bon Iver. It incorporates the more electronic sound found on the album, but does so gently without pushing the boundaries that “Beth/Rest” does so earnestly.

Needless to say, it lives up to For Emma, Forever Ago. The lyrics are just as beautiful and haunting as before, but alongside the phenomenal songwriting we’ve grown to love comes a newfound maturity of sorts in the music that accompanies it. It’s a beautiful album, even if the more 80s inspired electric offerings turn you off slightly, and one that I will certainly be listening to throughout the years.

Bon Iver comes out on June 21st through Jagjaguwar.

Bon Iver – Calgary

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