It was announced (quiteÂ a while ago, in fact) that Bon Iver was following up "For Emma, Forever Ago" with an EP to be released on January 20th, again on Jagjaguwar. However, this time Bon Iver does not mean Justin Vernon... on "Blood Bank", two more musicians help to beef up his sound. Did it really need "beefing up", though..?
Having released one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year, releasing new material was always going to be tricky for Bon Iver. The well known "sophomore album syndrome" affects a huge number of artists. Justin Vernon is a clever guy though - instead of making people wait for a second album, which will, of course, put a lot of pressure on him to avoid "sophomore album syndrome" , he is releasing a four song EP that is surely designed to get people used to Bon Iver being a band, not just one man sitting on a log with a reverb pedal.
If you haven't heard it already, you will probably be fairly apprehensive as to how this sound has come out, as I was. The perfect cure for this natural apprehension is to listen to "Blood Bank" a few times (the song, not the whole EP, although that would probably helpÂ as well) and realize that Bon Iver has, actually, got better.
Not only has Bon Iver improved, but the production is significantly better. This is probably not much of an accolade, since "For Emma, Forever Ago" was recorded in a shed with all of the mastery of a well schooled hedgehog, but hearing the layered voices over "Woods" is still incredible. The wonderfully used vocoder and auto-tune stick a (tentative and emotional) middle finger up at Kanye West, sounding like Imogen Heap's "Hide And Seek" if Imogen Heap had a wiry beard.
For those who just wanted "For Emma, Forever Ago" Part Two, there is always the warm folk of "Beach Baby" to enjoy. Juxtaposed next to Bon Iver's new band centred efforts, it still feels as prolific as ever, just a little weak or understated.
"Blood Bank" will silence doubters and possibly even convert some dissenters thanks to Bon Iver's new sound. "Blood Bank" is warmer than the air temperature at one of Justice's gigs (I can't believe I managed to fit Justice into a Bon Iver Review!) and, as a result, it's a revelation. Bon Iver? A good winter indeed.