All posts tagged: Justin Vernon

CD Review: The National, “High Violet”

I’m sure it is a little bittersweet when your band has its highest debut ever –#3 to be exact —  on the Billboard 200 album chart with its new, critically-acclaimed album, and the record that still sits at the top is from…Justin Bieber. I wonder if after celebrating the success of their new album, High Violet — perhaps with a delicious meal and a few beers — they discussed finding Bieber, shaving his head and throwing him into a dumpster like in some ’80s movie where the underdog gets revenge on the bully.  I’m guessing they’re more mature than I am. Though High Violet is the National’s fifth studio album, it is also an album of firsts — it’s the their first record since their brilliant 2007 release, Boxer; it is their first album on the 4AD label; and it is their first record to be recorded in their own studio in Brooklyn. In a little over 10 years, the National — who now reside in Brooklyn, but hail from my hometown of Cincinnati — …

CD Review: Volcano Choir, “Unmap”

I’m a big fan of Justin Vernon in his day job as Bon Iver. His is one of the freshest and most creative voices to emerge from the north woods in recent years. On the new album Unmap (Jagjaguwar Records) from Volcano Choir, Vernon has teamed up with several fellow Wisconsinites who are members of Collections of Colonies of Bees. Unmap very much has the whiff of side project about it, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have its interesting moments in a Temple of the Dog-ish kind of way. These albums can be prone to arty pretensions, and this one is no exception, but there are enough sublime moments, mostly courtesy of Vernon, to balance those out. The songwriting for Unmap goes back to 2005, before Vernon began his meteoric ascension as Bon Iver. The actual recording didn’t take place until November 2008 at Vernon’s studio in Fall Creek, WI. Of all the songs here, “Still” comes closest to finding that Bon Iver magic. It’s a remake of the song “Woods,” which …

CD Review: Various Artists, “Dark Was the Night” and “War Child Presents Heroes”

It’s no secret that tribute albums and charity compilations can be hit-or-miss affairs at best. In the case of the latter, all you can really do is be happy that you’re supporting a good cause, and hope that the music is more hit than miss. Two important charity albums have recently appeared, and when I say important, I don’t just mean for the causes they’re helping, but also for the virtual who’s who of contemporary indie artists that has contributed tracks to them. If you could somehow assemble all of the buzz that these artists have collected, you could light the universe. In other words, to the naked eye, it’s a music blogger’s dream. The Red Hot Organization has been using pop culture to fight the good fight against AIDS since 1989. They have released 14 albums together with related television shows and media events, and have raised $7 million to date. Their most recent project is called Dark Was the Night (4AD Records). It’s an enormous 30-song effort that has been curated by brothers …

CD Review: Bon Iver, “Blood Bank [EP]”

Last year Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon blended his personal story, haunting melodies, and evocative lyrics on an album called For Emma, Forever Ago. The album found its way to almost everyone’s top-ten list at the end of the year, including mine. Considering the buzz, the normal backlash was fairly subdued — the music was that undeniable. The story is pretty well known by now: Musician finds heartache after moving to North Carolina with his band. He decides to move back to his home state, where he isolates himself in his family’s hunting cabin in the woods of northern Wisconsin in the dead of winter. “I left North Carolina and went up there because I didn’t know where else to go, and I knew that I wanted to be alone, and I knew that I wanted to be where it was cold,” Vernon told exclaim.ca last year. During the three months he was there, though it wasn’t his intention to do so, he wrote and made primitive recordings of the songs that would become For Emma, …