ARTIST Volcano Choir
RELEASE DATE 3.9.2013
9.6 | 10
Justin Vernon’s career began with a whimper. His critically lauded debut as Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago intrigued nearly everyone who came into contact with it, including Kanye West (much to Vernon’s liking). His star rose further on his sophomore, self-titled LP. so much so that he finally got the attention of GRAMMY voters (much to Vernon’s chagrin). Listening to his latest work, the excellent Volcano Choir LP Repave, it’s easy to forget it was only five years ago that Vernon’s work as Bon Iver began to get the attention of a mainstream audience. Vernon and fellow Volcano Choir members Jon Mueller, Chris Rosenau, Matthew Skemp, Thomas Wincek, and Daniel Spack have the sound of a band still in their exploratory phase while also appearing here as seasoned vets.
Whereas Bon Iver sounds like a solo Justin Vernon project, Volcano Choir is undoubtedly the work of a group. That point is driven home again and again on the basis of the sheer depth and magnitude of the 8 tracks that comprise Repave. “Byegone” has the feel of an instant classic, with its soaring guitar line and Vernon’s warm, emphatic vocal delivery. As the song builds to a relentlessly pleasing climax, Vernon’s yelps are challenged by thrashing cymbal clashes. The largely acoustic “Alaskans” follows and acts as a moment of introspection, as well as containing the lyrics which grant the album its title. “Decide, decide, decide, decide, repave, repave, repave, repave,” Vernon sings in his most delicate vocal performance yet. It’s a gorgeous song that becomes more lovable the longer it’s around. “Alaskans” is comparable to the work of Isaac Brock and James Mercer on the 180 South OST, honoring the past, present, and future. “Can’t believe your father left his land,” Vernon sings on the track. The people we look up to are supposed to be constants, or so we think. When they’re gone, our perspectives change. It’s time to repave the surface, create a new ground for us to walk on.
Another standout is “Acetate,” which finds the group furthering their musical reach, this time delving into funk, while a chant-a-long chorus adds punch to the subtle bass and drum interplay that is woven throughout the track. “Dancepack” is another song that is aided by a strong rhythm section that acts as an anchor while keeping the listener compelled.
The album closes with the most left-field moment here, the electronica based “Almanac.” Vernon controls the track with his gorgeous falsetto, before reaching into his deeper register for his most confident vocal on the album. Live drums, acoustic and electric guitar makes the track a part of a cohesive whole rather than an awkwardly placed one-off single. The song closes with glacial electric guitars and Vernon’s layered vocals rendering his lyrics inaudible. It’s an epic flourish that is something akin to a Fourth of July firework display.
Justin Vernon’s career began with a whimper. With Repave, Vernon’s career continues on its upward trajectory, this time with a bang.