To be honest, I only moderately enjoyed For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver’s 2007 debut with the too-good-to-be-possible back story that for some reason made nearly every critic’s best of 2008 list. Justin Vernon’s vocals are beautiful, but with the exception of the avant-garde drumming on “The Wolves (Act I and II),” the low-key songs too often blended into the background. There’s nothing as intentionally abrasive as “Wolves” on this new four-song EP, but Vernon’s newest material is more than pleasant ambience. The opening title track looks for romance among the bags of blood, and Vernon’s vocals sell it by the resolution’s lo-fi exaltation. “Beach Baby” is essentially built on that trusty acoustic augmented by some brief pedal steel, but, since it’s not buried in an album of similar songs, the quiet mellow is more affecting. “Babys” builds on a minimalist Steve Reich swell, and sort-of a cappella “Woods” incredibly finds an acceptable use for auto-tune not already discovered by Daft Punk. Take note Kanye — the key is that Vernon’s voice already sounded good without it.
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