Bon Iver - Blood Bank EP

Jamie Milton 16/12/2008

Rating: 4/5

Having just about given the green light to Christmas cheer filtering through into our lives, we're still having to deal with quite a few snow-themed, saddening distractions. The Glasvegas Christmas EP certainly deals with the less jubilant side of our December time. And even though Justin Vernon, recovering still from his relationship turmoil, talks kindly of "that Christmas morning", that he knows so well on the title-track of the snowflake covered treat of an EP, he still pulls the right strings when it comes to making you cry like a baby.

Expect the critical response towards 'Blood Bank' to be somewhere in between "oh him? Not fussed anymore..." and "Fuck me that's amazing!". It's certainly difficult to be underwhelmed. Prior to the final track it's more of a case of same-old, same-old but Kanye West inspired or not (the mostly likely of the two, blame coincidence), 'Woods' is Bon Iver's most refreshingly "new" work to date. Those harmonics that 'For Emma...' was so fondly famed for spectacularly drive an instrument-free chorus into a euphoric wail of despair, all via. some autotune. It's remarkable how well it works. Don't dismiss it as the same stuff, just with a vocoder smeared on top of it, there's an awful lot more to it; progression in structure, a gorgeous centring melody and the help of some reverb-heavy Vernon cries to close it all.

But that isn't the only difference between his two works. 'Babys' is odd in the way that it gives the limelight to some busy, chiming yet clumsy piano chords, before an equally riveting guitar strum helps us make perfect sense of it all. 'Beach Baby' even, gives us something unfamiliar with its stereotypical-package-holiday-in-Hawaii guitar lines that enter midway.

But the finest work comes at the very start. A tale of two lovers falling into each-other's arms when in a freezing cold car, stuck in traffic is a bit predictable knowing Bon Iver but in terms of resonance, it eclipses all. Perhaps then, Vernon should just stick to a perpetual theory, regardless of any inevitable critical backlash. But all the same, it's very enjoyable to discover that there's more to him than sentiment and sadness.

Release date: 20/01/08