1. Top Five of 2011 Part 3: Perth

    Friday, December 23, 2011

    Perth - Bon Iver

    I had a lot of expectations surrounding the second full-length Bon Iver album, as I imagine a lot of people did. "For Emma, Forever Ago" is a pretty special record, and for the next one, I was expecting something beautiful, ethereal and even quite different. What I wasn't expecting was for "Bon Iver" to sound so confident.

    "Perth" opens with about eight second of silence, and a gorgeous guitar line follows. It repeats, undulating many times until ghostly harmonies and snare drums built softly underneath. None of this (minus the electric guitar) is that surprising, but it all sounds exactly right. This feeling of just nailing it - of a vision expertly carried out - continues through to the more surprising parts of the song. Machine gun polyrythms? Bombastic brass shots? Double kick drum? On paper it sounds bizarre, but I didn't question it once while listening.

    "Perth" also does (well) the duty of establishing the first section of the record as a whole. "Minnesota, WI" and Grammy-nominated "Holoscene" sit beautifully in the afterglow that a track as strong as "Perth" creates.  It carves a wide emotional berth, sounding at once deeply melancholy and triumphant. From there, the record has everywhere to go.

    "Bon Iver" is a great album, and "Perth" is a perfect way to open it. It doesn't shrug off the features that made "For Emma" succeed, but it signals loud and clear that audiences are in for a different ride. "Bon Iver" will never mean the same thing as the album before, nor should it. "For Emma, Forever Ago" is only a playlist away, and we have something much more exciting in the second album than repetition. We have progress.


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