Bon Iver: Blood Bank (10TH Anniversary Edition)
When Bon Iver’s Blood Bank was released in 2009, it offered signs of where Justin Vernon might head after his breakout debut For Emma, Forever Ago established him as a guy with a guitar and a powerful falsetto singing sad songs. Now being rereleased with an expanded (and belated) 10th Anniversary Edition that features live versions of each of the EP’s four songs, Blood Bank looks more like a bridge between what Bon Iver was and the expansive, exploratory band it has become. Though the title track was written during the For Emma sessions, Vernon said it didn’t fit and decided to leave it off. In retrospect, the slowly swelling guitars and fuller sound offered hints toward 2011’s Bon Iver. But it’s the Auto-Tuned, a capella closing track “Woods” that feels like a blueprint for the kind of sounds Vernon would experiment with on 2016’s 22, A Million and last year’s i, i. It also proved to be the track that would change Vernon’s career in ways he couldn’t have imagined. Kanye West sampled “Woods” for “Lost in the World” from his 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and the rapper invited Vernon to collaborate on other songs (including “Monster”), catapulting Vernon into the pop culture consciousness— and feeding the musician’s thirst for experimentation. The new live versions, all recorded in 2018, showcase Vernon’s ever-evolving big band, which turns “Blood Bank” into an even more powerful slowburn build. The sparse, acoustic “Beach Baby” gets fleshed out with mournful horns and piano. “Babys,” built around a repeating piano part, also benefits from horns in the live setting, giving the track a jazzy vibe the original lacked. “Woods,” oddly enough, most resembles the original, though Vernon finds more power in his voice in this recording, looping, bending and stretching his vocal—a commanding performance from one of indie-rock’s brightest stars.