A winter’s tale with Bon Iver

He loves the vocoder, but don’t let that distract you.

Photo courtesy JagJagUWar records

Ashley Goetz

Photo courtesy JagJagUWar records

ARTIST: Bon Iver ALBUM: âÄúBlood BankâÄù (EP) LABEL: JagJagUWar Justin Vernon , the man behind criticsâÄô darling and indie kid favorite band Bon Iver, has a voice like a forest in the middle of winter, and itâÄôs no coincidence that he recorded his much-lauded first album, âÄúFor Emma, Forever AgoâÄù in a tiny Wisconsin cabin in the cold. Just a hint of Bon Iver immediately brings to mind images of wind blowing the icicles like chimes and a feeling of the silent stillness on the coldest night of the year. The new Bon Iver EP, âÄúBlood Bank,âÄù resonates with the concept of seasons, again feeling most at home in the coldest one. Though succinct in its four-song run, âÄúBlood BankâÄù is a heavy piece of work. The title track, despite an atypical song structure with its lack of a definite chorus and vague lyrics (is it about AIDS?), details falling in love while donating blood. ItâÄôs the standout of the EP, thrumming beautifully with the pace of a pulse. With Bon Iver, itâÄôs easy to listen to each song seven times and still not fully grasp the songâÄôs intricacies. âÄúWoodsâÄù is a bookend to Imogen HeapâÄôs ubiquitous âÄúHide and Seek,âÄù the sparse (and entirely studio-tweaked) tune heard playing in nearly every pivotal emotional climax on prime-time television in 2004. Bon Iver loves his vocoder, and when he uses his actual voice, it helps him conjure something startlingly intimate. âÄúBeach BabyâÄù is an abrupt two minutes, but itâÄôs sweeter and more delicate than the other songs on the EP, with a slide guitar overlay reminiscent of a postcard from Hawaii inscribed with âÄúWish you were here.âÄù âÄúBabysâÄù sounds like a child repeatedly striking chords on an old out-of-tune piano, alternating between an eerie major and minor. It builds to a typical Bon Iver whispery climax. ItâÄôs haunting, but it isnâÄôt unique. Most of the songs on âÄúBlood BankâÄù sound just like outtakes from the âÄúFor EmmaâÄù recording sessions, and though the Bon Iver aesthetic is pleasing to many, sometimes the repetition is grating. The four songs on âÄúBlood BankâÄù are âÄúideasâÄù of songs versus actual concrete pieces of musical work. They float through your fingers like wisps.