Bon Iver thwarts sophomore slump

Having gained a robust following from songs like “Skinny Love,” “For Emma” and “Blood Bank” from their first full-length release “For Emma, Forever Ago,” Justin Vernon’s band Bon Iver had high expectations to live up to with their latest self-titled album “Bon Iver.” Unlike so many sophomore albums, it did not disappoint. “Calgary” was the first track released, and although it is not first or last, but rather eighth on the album, it stands out. Just a bit more uptempo than some of the other songs, “Calgary” is a force, albeit a soothing, Bon Iver-esque force. Aside from “Calgary,” “Michicant” and “Holocene” are personal favorites from “Bon Iver.” “Michicant” proves Bon Iver’s true talent for crafting spare arrangements that tug on your heartstrings. Opening “I was unafraid, I was a boy, I was a tender age,” the lyrics set the tone for a tale about losing innocence, but it is the melody and inspired use of sounds that make the track so phenomenal; never before has a bicycle bell seemed so genius. In addition to playing delicate yet somehow powerful music, Vernon has a unique ability to craft lyrics that feel startlingly confessional — a skill he continues to utilize on “Bon Iver.” All of “Holocene” is beautiful in a sort of tragic way, but it is the line “And at once I knew I was not magnificent” that sticks with you in a way reminiscent of the “Blood Bank” lyric “That secret that you know, that you don’t know how to tell.” Although the entire CD is worth listening to, “Wash.,” “Towers” and “Perth” are other particularly standout songs. “Beth/Rest” closes the album, and is quite different from the rest of the album. It has an unexpected ‘80s sound to it, which can be off-putting. However, when played live, the song has a way of winning you over. Although none of the many location-inspired titles on “Bon Iver” touch on the Northeast, it is the perfect CD to listen to in its entirety while driving on I-89, weaving through the green mountains of Vermont.