Bon Iver - Blood Bank

A new four-track EP from the celebrated singer...
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Recorded between December 2006 and the summer of 2008, the four tracks that make up the ‘Blood Bank’ EP don’t truly sit neatly together.

But that’s not necessarily a problem given the individual splendour of your average Bon Iver song. Essentially an off-cuts collection on paper, ‘Blood Bank’ proves to be much more than the sum of its parts.

Last year’s ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ album transformed Justin Vernon from an underground artist with potential into a bona-fide international star, able to tour the world to packed theatres. And the man’s material is no less affecting live than it is on record – it resonates with a universally identifiable ache, with a tangible emotion each and every one of us can relate to. It’s this nakedness of soul that’s endeared the man to so many.

Self-produced, these EP tracks are intimate affairs, three of four nestling close to the listener and making an impressive immediate impression. The title track is the obvious lead, a powerful vocal from Vernon drawing potential parallels with Guy Garvey – a confident maturity evident where previously vulnerability pervaded. Throbbing percussion, the result of a full-band approach, drives the song along its course, positive lyrics declaring a love aloud; it’s the other side of the ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ coin, the writing of a man whose heart’s not as broken as other songs would have you believe.

‘Beach Baby’ takes the atmosphere of Wisconsin wilderness and relocates it to a Hawaiian seafront, so Waikiki-coloured are the warm tones that rise from the track’s final minute. Throughout, Vernon’s vocals ride shotgun to the arrangement around him, drifting in and out of focus but never once gripping the wheel. Entirely different of mood is ‘Babys’, which rides a furious piano line for over two minutes, frantic of pace, before breaking its own mould by slipping into echoed notes and Vernon’s singular cries – reverential, but in blissful awe of whom remains uncertain.

Only ‘Woods’ really disappoints, Vernon’s toying with vocoder’d vocal stylings not hitting the sweet spot it was aiming for (and not sounding too unlike Kanye West on his last album). The layering of vocals is evidence of welcome experimentation, but rather than building to an enveloping whole the end product’s more annoying than absorbing.

Not that the many fans of this rightly celebrated artist are likely to mind one misstep, as combine this release with its preceding full-length and you’ve an early collection of work unmatched by any solo songwriter of Bon Iver’s modern ilk.

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