Bon Iver: Bon Iver 

Jagjaguwar

Three years removed from Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago, it's fair to ask whether the breathless hype surrounding that record was due to its mythical backstory: Guy gets dumped and retreats to a winter Wisconsin cabin to commit his heartbreak to tape. The answer, of course, is a big fat duh, with the caveat that it was still pretty damn good. Justin Vernon and his alarming falsetto are back for a self-titled second outing, which contains some powerful moments of clarity but ultimately fails to congeal into anything resembling the musical and emotional testimonial that was For Emma. Vernon's palate has expanded to include indiscreet synth waves, horn flourishes and layers of electric guitar. It often works gorgeously (opener "Perth") but is elsewhere indiscreet (the Peter Gabriel-aping closer "Beth/Rest"). Vernon remains at his best in close, quiet settings, such as "Holocene," a breathtaking amber-hued beauty of a tune. (3 out of 5 stars)

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