“Like Foreigner for hipsters”. “Bad Phil Collins”. “A touch of Sting crossed with Toto”.
Not my words, the words of the Guardian’s Comment Is Free trolls in a wide ranging dismissal of Bon Iver’s eponymous second record. Unsurprisingly, the online response to the stream of Justin Vernon’s new LP was mottled with acerbic criticism, but it swims against an increasingly strong tide of gushing critical love for the effort.
Pitchfork led the charge of the praise brigade, bestowing ‘Bon Iver’ with a highly rare 9.5/10. Reviewer Mark Richardson marvelled at the increasing breadth of Vernon’s range, crediting collaborations with Kanye and Gayngs towards the fleshing out of his sound and deciding that ‘Bon Iver’ “simultaneously evokes the grain and expression of soul music along with the mythological echoes of folk”. He also gives props to Vernon’s lyrical riddles and “unabashed and unironic” love of 80s pop before concluding “Vernon has given us a knotty record that resists easy interpretation but is no less warm or welcoming”.
Over on guardian.co.uk, it either receives five stars or four, depending on whether you’re reading Kitty Empire in the Observer or Maddy Costa in the Guardian. The former declared that “Vernon’s focus has widened but his strange siren song is just as alluring” while the latter insists “Bon Iver remains rooted in the emotional sincerity that made Vernon’s debut so mesmerising”.
Mike Diver at the BBC suggested the album was actually an improvement on the debut, arguing “that it far surpasses the still-echoing resonance of that debut set is indicative of its standing as one of 2011’s most absorbing, affecting and downright brilliant LPs”. Time, meanwhile offers that compliment that works for most albums that aren’t by Kesha or Pitbull (ie anything with depth), namely that “the more you listen, the deeper and broader the songs become”.
On NME’s First Listen, Priya concluded “there’s a gentle beauty to the whole thing and a batch of subtle surprises” while in the review proper Alex Denney decided “‘Bon Iver’ is the sound of a man making peace with the world, saxophones and all”. Finally, Rolling Stone’s Will Hermes posited that Bon Iver’s sophomore bodes well for their career prospects, decreeing “Vernon is more than a bearded indie rocker with a taste for rural roots music. He’s a soul auteur, and he’s just getting started”.
The album received a universal 7+, often scoring much higher. I’m not sure a single review avoided reference to a log cabin.
What do you think? Is the 80s homage of the final track too much? Have a listen and let us know your review.