There’s an almost seasonal inspiration behind Bon Iver’s latest indie-folk enterprise, the four-song EP Blood Bank. As the liner notes suggest, each track retains something of the month it was recorded: the raindrop piano of “Babys,” the sunny lakeside acoustics of “Beach Baby.” Blood Bank is a tossed salad of winter, spring, summer and fall.
Still, there’s a persistent wintry undertone to Bon Iver’s—aka Justin Vernon’s—music. Cool, mournful and reflective, like wind blowing through snowy pines in the Bitterroot National Forest. Unlike most lyricists, Vernon prefers realism to impressionism. Moments in the title track pass with an air of familiarity, the scenes and characters perhaps as easily pulled from the transcript of your life as his.
Vernon has definitely chosen his direction. Blood Bank is as thought provoking as they come, and it boasts enough unusual elements in the track-to-track to keep listeners guessing. Mark Paulson’s nylon guitar on “Beach Baby” practically sings a second verse in lieu of backing vocals, and the piano on “Babys” takes me back to the repetitive crescendo/decrescendo exercises from “Keyboard Town,” the cornerstone of piano instruction literature. Vernon picks a strange cliff-hangar for Bon Iver fans, a distorted a cappella ballad with the haunting message of slowing down time. And, somehow, it works.