Own act hard to fol­low

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Music - JAR­RAD BE­VAN

WHEN your de­but is her­alded as the best thing since sliced bread, where to next?

For the man be­hind Bon Iver, Justin Ver­non, the only op­tion was jump­ing ship – he avoided mak­ing this al­bum for a long while.

He col­lab­o­rated with other mu­si­cians, ex­per­i­ment­ing with sounds that were way out­side his nor­mal in­diefolk scene. He even wrote a bunch of mu­sic with rap mu­sic’s big­gest star Kanye West.

But now it’s time to get down to busi­ness, his sopho­more, self-ti­tled al­bum.

Where his ac­claimed de­but For Emma, For­ever Ago was a deeply per­sonal tale of heart­break and iso­la­tion, this one is more am­bigu­ous. The style is still in­ti­mate but his new lyrics aren’t cut so deeply from his own flesh.

Mu­si­cally things are dif­fer­ent and the same. There are plenty of gui­tar-driven laments but Ver­non has also ex­tended the act’s reach with a more cin­e­matic, elab­o­rate, live-band sound.

Perth opens pro­ceed­ings with softly strummed melodies be­fore ex­plod­ing in the back end with a mon­u­men­tal, psychedelic cli­max. The min­i­mal, sub­lime, whis­per­ing Hin­nom, TX just shim­mers and cas­cades for nearly three min­utes.

Piano-led Wash treads a sim­i­lar path and is a prime ex­am­ple of no-frills, beau­ti­ful song­writ­ing that packs an emo­tional punch.

Min­nesota, WI has a dif­fer­ent sort of sur­prise up its sleeve. The light R& B horns are cool but it’s the hefty bass that ap­pears mid-song that hit me for six. Maybe there is some slight Kanye in­flu­ence here – folk mu­sic we can dance to per­haps?

Most im­pres­sive is Ver­non’s var­ied vo­cal pal­ette. He can do a con­vinc­ing low-slung grum­ble but more of­ten sings in a high reg­is­ter with a del­i­cate falsetto.

He’s also got some stu­dio tricks in his arse­nal, such as us­ing Auto Tune to add a rich tex­ture. This could be the best ad­vo­cate of a tech­nol­ogy that is more of­ten than not abused by singers who aren’t that great at singing.

Towns is up there with the al­bum’s best ma­te­rial. Warm and lush with lay­ered vo­cals, it has got a dash of alt-coun­try in its DNA with im­pres­sive elec­tric gui­tars in­stead of Ver­non’s old- favourite acous­tics. On the cheek­ily ti­tled Michi­cant, Ver­non sounds soul­ful in self-re­flec­tion. The song veers into haunt­ing ter­ri­tory; it’s im­pres­sive stuff.

The only song that fails to res­onate is the crim­i­nally un­cool clos­ing num­ber Beth/ Rest.

What on earth is go­ing on here? Did Phil Collins sneak into the stu­dio?

And why are these songs named af­ter re­mote towns?

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