2. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Justin Vernon is out of the cabin. With Bon Iver he begins his return to civilization, now accompanied by throngs of sensitive fans and new street-cred courtesy of Kanye West. On this journey, Vernon could have followed the blueprint of For Emma, Forever Ago: churn out new songs dominated by an acoustic guitar and stripped-down production. However, he opted to go in a new direction with a fleshed-out, proper band and Bruce Hornsby as a muse.
Bon Iver needs to be heard in order from beginning to end, as most great albums do. The deceiving hush in the opening moments of “Perth” begins the journey to “Beth/Rest”, a synth-driven, kitchen-sink track with a guitar solo straight out of A Momentary Lapse of Reason that still polarizes fans months after its release. But that’s the beauty of Vernon’s risk-taking throughout the album. He didn’t rest on his laurels and create For Emma: Vol. 2. If anything, he created Bon Iver Mach 2, now with saxophones. The inclusion of the best song of the year, the gorgeous acceptance found within “Holocene”, didn’t hurt the album’s placing as our second-favorite album of the year, either. -Justin Gerber