1. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Since the release of For Emma, Forever Ago and its follow up EP, Blood Bank, Justin Vernon has been doing just about everything but Bon Iver. He worked with Collections of Colonies of Bees as Volcano Choir, played a one-off with Peter Wolf Crier drummer Brian Moen as their old blues duo the Shouting Matches, made soft rock with Gayngs and even worked with Kanye West. He proved his versatility, but what was next for Bon Iver? After all that, could Vernon really go back and make another lonely solo record?
No. Instead, he enlisted the help of woodwind mastermind Colin Stetson, pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz , saxophonist Michael Lewis and yMusic’s Rob Moose and CJ Camerieri to bulk up Bon Iver’s already-impressive live band — Sean Carey, Matt McCaughan and Mike Noyce.
The intensity of For Emma, Forever Ago might have been a fluke — Vernon, sick with mono after breaking up with his band and girlfriend, finds solace in his father’s cabin in the woods and records something perfect. But even without a romantic backstory, Bon Iver effortlessly recaptures the magic of Emma on a much larger scale.
I’ve had this pegged as “Album of the Year” since my first listen. It’s absolutely enchanting from the thunders of “Perth” to the Bruce Hornsby-based ballad “Beth/Rest.” Bon Iver is one of those rare records — much bigger than itself, but so personal and meaningful.