When its doubly self-titled sophomore record first hit speakers last spring, Bon Iver began to feel less like it was merely the nom-de-stage of a solo singer-songwriter, a conventional guy-with-a-guitar, one Justin Vernon. The acoustic introspection and haunting isolation of its 2008 debut, For Emma, Foever Ago grew into something lush and expansive on Bon Iver, Bon Iver, with emotive playing and majestic arrangements. On the new album, Bon Iver began to feel like a band.
This was, after all, inevitable. As Vernon told WXPN’s David Dye when he was interviewed for World Café last autumn, the first record was borne out of a highly introspective time. “There was a little bit of tail-between-my-legs going on,” he acknowledges of writing it following the end of a romantic relationship and the breakup of his old band, DeYarmond Edison. This element – working on music alone and sad in a cabin in the Wisconsin winter – was possibly overly mythologized, but nonetheless, For Emma was crafted as a collection of very personal songs, and sounds like one.
As soon as Vernon began performing these songs under the guise of Bon Iver, they began to morph. Solo shows grew into two-piece performances with drummer Sean Carey, then further into quartet configuration with guitarist Michael Noyce and bassist Matthew McCaughey, all the way to the nine-piece ensemble that will play The Mann Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday. Continue reading →