By Nicolas Grizzle
With the self-titled Bon Iver, Justin Vernon and company have made a delicate, clever, lush and sonically rich album to complement 2008's breakout debut, For Emma, Forever Ago. Nine of the album's 10 songs are nearly jaw-dropping and beautiful. And then it gets covered by a big can of Cheez Whiz.
For Emma was famously recorded in a remote cabin in Wisconsin during a winter hibernation. The process for this album was similar; recorded by Vernon himself with guests on pedal steel guitar and baritone sax, the album has a folksy feel. The songs are nostalgic, slightly sad and decisive, and the sonic space created with keyboard sounds and layers of vocal harmonies makes a New Americana type of sound.
It's very pleasing until the last song, which I honestly thought was a joke. After a brief instrumental blips 'n' bleeps song ("Lisbon, OH"), "Beth-Rest" opens with John Tesh-y New Age piano and a Phil Collinsstyle drum loop. Then comes a Prince-esque delayed guitar solo and the cheesiest, most generic sax solo this side of KJZY. Pedal steel, flute and acoustic piano do nothing to salvage the mess.
Still, nine great songs minus one really, really terrible song still equate to an overall very good album. Bon Iver is officially released June 21.