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Feel like floating? ‘Bon Iver’ is your musical answer

Published 5:00pm Saturday, June 25, 2011

“Bon Iver” feels a bit like floating on a cloud or drifting off to sleep.

In Justin Vernon’s self-titled follow-up as Bon Iver, he loses some of the organic qualities of debut “For Emma, Forever Ago.” That album was recorded almost exclusively by Vernon in his home state of Wisconsin after a break-up and a bout of mononucleosis.

Bon Iver is labeled as folk, but it’s not always true to the genre. It takes folks rhythms and standards and broadens them while infusing heavy doses of resonating electronics.

The acoustic guitar, which was so prevalent behind the 2008 debut often gives way to keyboards on new songs like “Wash.” or dissipates into a dream-like haze on “Lisbon, OH.”

More true to folk, Vernon’s lyrics fueled the debut album, where his falsetto voice would come down just enough for moments of clarity and heartache.

On “Bon Iver,” Vernon’s voice blends into the overall sound, which is soaked with reverb and effects. This lush soundscape of instrumentation never quite peaks, but rather comes in waves of echoes and vibrations.

It’s often difficult to locate the melody, which alternates between folk rhythms and indie harmonies, until the cadence forms behind the ambient fog.

“Beth/Rest” sounds like something taken from the credits of a 1980s film and processed through a computer.

In fact, many of the songs could double on a melodramatic film soundtrack.

Some fans of the debut will celebrate the album as the next step, while others will reject it as an unnecessary shift in focus.

“Bon Iver” may not have the moment of precision that “Skinny Love” was on “For Emma, Forever Ago.” But the follow-up has its moments of heart and soul, they just remain more coy and laced into instrumentation.

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