Blood Bank (EP)

Bon Iver

Jagjaguwar, 2009

REVIEW BY: Kenny S. McGuane


Bon Iver’s critically acclaimed 2008 album For Emma, Forever Ago has done a fine job of solidifying the band’s mastermind Justin Vernon as one of the most exciting, mysterious and universally admired American songwriters making music today. Vernon’s poetry, restrained guitar playing, hauntingly intimate production and extraordinarily beautiful voice all joined forces on For Emma, Forever Ago and the end result was a record more striking and gorgeous than any in recent memory.

As is usually the case with such a potent debut album, it’s difficult to imagine a follow-up meeting expectations. Thankfully, rather than hastily deliver a sophomore effort, Bon Iver have given listeners my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Blood Bank, a four-track EP that has turned out to be an appropriate companion piece to their stunning debut album. Although Blood Bank as an experience comes nowhere near the overall effects of For Emma, Forever Ago, it does everything to reaffirm Vernon’s musical and poetic vision.

The title track is far and away the set’s strongest and it was actually written for the debut record, but never made the cut. Thank god it’s preserved on Blood Bank. How Vernon originally made the decision to cut it is baffling, but has said in interviews that the track didn’t feel right at the time. Next in line is “Beach Baby,” which is as stripped-down a Bon Iver recording as any other, featuring just vocal, acoustic guitar and slide. The third track, “Babys,” is one of Vernon’s more impressive vocal performances where over a pulsating and circular piano riff he exclaims “Summer comes, to multiply!” and when the release comes the brilliant singer settles into a layered and gorgeous harmony reminiscent of Marvin Gaye’s technique. The EP’s final track “Woods” is where the short-winded set suffers. Although ambitious, Vernon experiments here with the always irritating Vocoder and this experiment ultimately fails.

It will be difficult for Blood Bank to tide fans over until the next record, mainly because it’s so very short, just under seventeen minutes. But if examined separate from the For Emma, Forever Ago context, as difficult as that may be, Blood Bank is just as good an example of Justin Vernon’s prowess as a forward-thinking innovator of American indie- folk and -- similar to the debut -- it leaves the listener aching for more.

Rating: B

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© 2009 Kenny S. McGuane and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Jagjaguwar, and is used for informational purposes only.