2011 was neo-Americana’s sophomore crunch, with the genre’s two most prominent scions – Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver – releasing follow-ups to breakthrough debuts. While ‘Helplessness Blues’ offered a deeper shade 
of beige, Justin Vernon’s second LP was an expansive, impressionistic effort, every bit the equal of ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’. It takes a while for its greatness to register – but as the year has progressed, it has become NME’s go-to album for those troublesome dark nights. BN


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