Bon Iver – Blood Bank EP
Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon has been a force to be reckoned with this last year. Following the acclaimed release of For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar), Bon Iver has become a household name, having had his music featured in a variety of tv shows, such as Grey’s Anatomy and Chuck.
His latest release, the Blood Bank EP (Released January 20th on Jagjaguwar), is no less remarkable. Blood Bank contains four songs, all of them easily on par with those of For Emma. The sound is a little fuller than that of For Emma, and he seems to branch out a little bit from the bare bones guitars.
The title track, is a lyrical masterpiece of a love song. The opening verses present a beautiful image that set up for a great story: “I met you at the blood bank/We were looking at the bags/Wondering if any of the colors/Matched any of the names on the tags”. The mournful “Beach Baby” is about having a lover leave you, pleading with her “Don’t you lock when you lock when you’re fleein’, I’d love not to hear keys”.
“Babys” is a song with a lot of piano and very sparse vocals (not beginning until about a minute and a half in). It’s about having kids, saying that “Summer comes to multiply”, and that “My woman and I know what we’re for”. The EP finishes with “Woods”, which has a sound that most wouldn’t expect from Bon Iver. This a capella song is slowly built up by adding a layer of digitalized vocals with each repetition of the verse. The result is definitely goosebump-worthy. Though reminiscent of Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek”, Vernon’s woodsy touch is still tangible.
This is a great EP, and will definitely be tough to dislodge from my top five of ’09 list.
The Banyans – The Banyans
Local boys The Banyans are not your typical Seattle pop band. With a 1968 Brazilian ukulele in tow, The Banyans self-released an intricate and brilliantly polished self-titled album.
The sound seems to be drawn from myriad influences. Frontman Andy Fitts grew up in Hawaii, and the album has a tangible island influence. The Banyans also has a woodsy sound that adds something very northwest to the overall feel of the album. As a whole, the sound can be described as Sea Change-era Beck on a very relaxing Pacific island vacation (This is especially prevalent in the opening track “Across the Bow” and the dreamy “Safely Back to You”).
The subjects of the song vary, from the longing and regretful “Every Waking Minute”, a song about missing his lost love. The lyrics are sweet, and would make any girl (as corny as myself) swoon. There’s also piano-heavy “Chariot”, a kind of lyrically baffling song that seems to be from the point of view of a religious zealot trying to convert someone, ending with warning about the apocalypse. “At last we saw from above/The chariot coming down with blood/And Fire”
The Banyans is a very enjoyable album. Their sound is distinctive, but fits in very well with the overall Seattle pop scene. The album is available for free download.
The Banyans will be playing at Neumo’s on March 9th with Jubilee and The Republic.