One of the most lauded albums in State’s 2008 poll, For Emma’¦ left many a mouth salivating for more of Justin Vernon’s music. Perfectly plugging a gap and keeping interest keen, these four new songs are certainly the most anticipated EP we can remember round these parts recently. Back in late ’08 we were treated to a live unveiling of the title track along with ‘Babys’. While the latter was politely received, ‘Blood Bank’ itself was a glorious punch to the chest, all beefed up compared to the the album, and carrying a beat like a steam train.
Unfortunately, the brawn is missing off this recorded version and it is back to the softly softly approach which served the album so well. It is still however, a fine tune, the story in its lyrics telling a visual tale of blood and inclement weather – and of course being trapped in a car in a snowdrift with a girl. The powerful live version just offered a glimpse of a new, bigger sound and it really suited the singer and the song. ‘Beach Baby’ is very much in the mode of the album songs, but it really suits its quiet shell and the shimmering slide guitar within.
‘Babys’ is a simple song about how summer make us all want to procreate – and it’s repeated high piano notes make it somewhat lullaby-ish though it may be the slight boredom inherent in it that had your reviewer a little dozy. ‘Woods’ is classic EP fare ( it would be hard pushed to fit in anywhere else). It sees Vernon messing with auto-tune (it’s not just for Kanye y’know) and it’s obviously the release of creative steam. Similar to some of the less successful songs from his earlier Hazletons album, it comes across as self-indulgent and, by the end, annoying. It’s quite possible this was the last song he recorded in his For Emma’¦ log cabin. The one that said ‘go home, your work is done’.
An interesting collection of tunes, suited to an EP and definitely playing it not give-the-people-what-they-want safe, which is a plus. There is massive future potential in Bon Iver’s sound to spread in many different ways and this is probably the sound of a search rather than anything new and specific being found.