Bon Iver, Rosebuds | Chicago Theatre | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Bon Iver, Rosebuds Early Warnings (Music) Sold Out (Music) Soundboard

When: Sun., July 24, 7:30 p.m. 2011

Justin Vernon’s sweet falsetto remains at the heart of Bon Iver’s music, but on the band’s new self-titled album for Jagjaguwar, he surrounds his voice with intricate full-band arrangements that shatter the cabin-dwelling-troubadour image he established with 2008’s For Emma, Forever Ago. The success of that debut (and an unexpected partnership with Kanye West) clearly emboldened the native of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. There’s nothing intimate or rustic about Bon Iver’s opening cut, “Perth”—the intensity builds steadily as gently plucked electric guitars give way to swelling vocal harmonies, brassy fanfares, pounding drums, and ringing power chords. Listen to the album repeatedly and it gives up a bounty of detail that’s sometimes appealing and sometimes appalling; I like the banjo arpeggios and distorted bass on “Minnesota, WI,” but they’re undercut by chintzy chimelike 80s synthesizer tones. In fact most of the record is steeped in mainstream 80s pop, and it can get painful—the execrable closing track, “Beth/Rest,” sounds like a Bruce Hornsby outtake. Fortunately most of the pieces don’t wallow so shamelessly in MOR radio aesthetics, and when the late-breaking chorus of “Towers” finally crashes in on a wave of Greg Leisz’s pedal steel, it proves that super­ficial cues from best-forgotten stylistic eras aren’t enough to keep a good melody down. Vernon assembled an excellent backing band to make the album—including saxophonists Colin Stetson (Tom Waits) and Mike Lewis (Happy Apple), multi-instrumentalist Rob Moose (Antony & the Johnsons), and trumpeter C.J. Camerieri (Sufjan Stevens)—and most of the players join him live. —Peter Margasak

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