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Lost in Bon Iver's World

by Dan Weiss

Lost in Bon Iver's World


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Small-stakes balladeer-turned-indie rumor made good-turned-Kanye West hobnobber and Grammy winner Justin Vernon -- the man behind Bon Iver and, apparently, like 8 billion side projects -- is somehow busier than one might already think. Despite a benefit concert with a full-on "Lady Is a Tramp" brass section and a cameo on avant-garde baritone-sax man Colin Stetson's new record, Vernon's just-released Grownass Man from new trio The Shouting Matches might be his biggest surprise yet: a somewhat normal rock 'n' roll album, all but devoid of his famous layer cake of a falsetto.

Plus it turns out that lining up Vernon's spread-out career highlights end-to-end makes an even stronger patchwork than his individual records. Larks like Gayngs and The Shouting Matches more than hold their own against 2008's legendary cabin bloodletting For Emma, Forever Ago, which officially launched the Bon Iver legend. Even his former bandmates in Megafaun score a few highlights in this trajectory: Try "Get Right," which slowly unfolds under synth washes like nothing else so much as Springsteen's "Tougher Than the Rest." It's impossible to tell where Vernon will go next, even with all these pieces in one place. But here's where he's been.

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