Stream: ‘Blood Bank’ (MySpace)
I thought I would add to the steady tapping of bloggers dissecting the new four song Bon Iver EP, Blood Bank. Released presumably to sustain the buzz that saw Justin Vernon’s debut For Emma, Forever Ago climb out of the woods that spawned it to the summit of many year-end lists, it’s best considered a minor curiosity and a sign of what’s to come from this singular talent.
The title track sees Vernon’s falsetto defrost to reveal vocals that are sturdier and lyrics that are more coherent than those on For Emma…, which was desolate and emotionally wrought. This is a deliciously bizarre love song that takes place in a blood donor clinic and captures some great tiny details: “then the snow started falling / we were stuck out in your car / you were rubbing both my hands / chewing a candy bar”. A permanent winter shrouds Vernon’s music, capturing a season that does strange things to the mind and crystallises and intensifies feelings. Slide guitar normally evokes imagery of the desert, but it’s chilling on second track ‘Beach Baby’.
‘Beach Baby’ and ‘Babys’ manage to be at once promising and at the same time slight, like sketches that haven’t been worked on to completion. That said, they are enjoyable because they capture a similar atmosphere to the album, while the aforementioned slide guitar on ‘Beach Baby’ and the insistent piano of ‘Babys’ see Vernon stretching his sound.
‘Woods’, the EP’s closer, is perhaps a stretch too far, with its appropriation of a vocal auto-tuner that’s most common on commercial rap and r ‘n’ b tracks. It’s layered ad infinitum with different vocal tracks to produce something that’s disorientating and a little nauseating. It’s great to see Vernon experimenting and I look forward to hearing his new album, but I doubt Blood Bank as a whole will keep me coming back.