Bon Iver – Blood Bank EP

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Bon Iver Blood Bank EP
Jagjaguwar, Jan. 20, 2009
By Matthew Ralph

Because I didn’t really listen to a whole lot of new music for the first part of 2008, I didn’t catch onto the exploding phenomenon that is Bon Iver until late in the year.

By the time I did finally add it to my iPod playlist, I had read so much about For Emma, Forever Ago that it was almost guaranteed to disappoint. It’s hardly the John Mayer-esque record some anonymous idiot tagged it in an end of the year list published in Velocity (a Louisville-based weekly paper), but I’m not so sure it’s grown on me enough to be considered a top 5 or top 10 record of the year either. It’s for sure a good record, but I’d still rather listen to Great Lake Swimmers or Iron & Wine. I’d also much rather call the dude by his real name, but that’s another story.

Fresh off the hype and the overkilled story of his retreat to a cabin in the woods, Justin Vernon is striking the iron while it is plenty hot with a mini four-song EP that is an appropriate wintertime companion to the aforementioned debut full-length.

It doesn’t carry the intruiging backstory or barren solitary feel of its predecessor, but Blood Bank does shoot pretty straight in what-you-would-expect territory with the first three songs.

After a first few listens to the title track, I had to double-check that it wasn’t on the record, it sounded so familiar. It’s not, but it would be a standout track even if it was. In fact, it might even serve as a good introduction to someone who is an even more belated adopter than I have been to Mr. Vernon’s intricately moody and hypnotic tunes.

“Beach Baby” features an infectious slide guitar and “Babys” an are-the-notes-ever-going-to-change repetitive piano intro that set them apart from previous output, but on both songs its Vernon’s falsetto that drives the songs and give them a wintery feel not necessarily consistent with lyrical references to the beach and the approaching summer season.

The wheels come off on track four when Vernon does a little Imogen Heap/Cher auto-tuner imitation that chaotically burries his voice in cheap effects. It leaves plenty to be desired on such a short EP but on repeated listens isn’t so bad that it renders an otherwise worthwhile musical acquisition useless.

In other words, save yourself a buck and stick to the first three songs.

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