When For Emma, Forever Ago came out in 2007, it was the sort of record that urged insane amounts of repeated listening. That album sustained its woebegone ode to heartbreak over nine beautiful tracks that pooled into something singular and inseparable. Now, almost four years since For Emma’s release, it remains as cohesive and emotionally resonant as ever. In that time, Justin Vernon has been busy collaborating with Kanye West, finding his inner George Michael with Gayngs, and rocking out with Volcano Choir. While all of his music has been varying degrees of exceptional, “Calgary” marks the welcome return of Vernon’s core pursuit—the first new Bon Iver track since the Blood Bank EP —and finds him far removed from the winter cabin that served as Bon Iver’s genesis.
“Calgary” is larger and more complex than anything on For Emma. And, unlike the songs on that record, it doesn’t feel like part of a concept larger than itself. While Vernon may have forgone the naked emotion of his past, “Calgary” more than makes up for it in beauty of arrangement. Propulsive drums thunder underneath Vernon’s falsetto, which reaches new levels of expansiveness. The guitar work is louder, and the modest bombast of the track suggests some of those Kanye collabs made a lasting impression. Lesser artists have ruined themselves attempting to remake the same break-up record ad nauseum. Thankfully, “Calgary” shows Bon Iver is moving to different, but equally gorgeous places. The last lines of the song are also the most telling: “Oh the demons come / They can subside.” (Pitchfork)
Bon Iver—Bon Iver, Bon Iver
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