BEST OF 2011: 20. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

He makes grown men cry, you know. Another case of not allowing yourself to be put off by the combination of hero worship and ludicrous overstatement, this one. Indeed, the weight of expectation is a curious beast. Sometimes it can work in your favour: Ian McEwan‘s lightweight ‘Amsterdam‘ getting plaudits after the failure to duly reward the majesty of ‘Enduring Love’, ‘Be Here Now‘ getting five star reviews after lukewarm responses to ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?‘ On other occasions it can leave with you no chance: most Radiohead albums since 2000 and the tiresome ‘is it as good as OK Computer or Kid A‘ comparisons, the forthcoming Stone Roses reunion gigs (trust me on this one). And then there are those who think “fuck it, people will give this a chance because of the last one” and crack on, doing their own thing. And while Justin Vernon didn’t suddenly unleash a new line in scatting jazz vocals here, ‘Bon Iver’ was quite pointedly not ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ part two.

bi11

Exactly what it is, is another matter. It’s a pretty record, blessed with all sorts of sonic smuggery which charmed me from the off, and it’s an album which sounds curiously out of time. Which is not to say it is timeless, far from it in fact. ‘Bon Iver’ sounds pointedly dated at certain moments, not least on album closer ‘Beth/Rest’, which has predictably provoked buckets of wrath for its Eighties soft-rock tones. While there are undeniably contemporary references here and there, from the artwork to its last note it has the feeling of a moderately successful record of old, its beauty shining through despite the particular clothes of the time it has come from. Think ‘Punch The Clock’ by Elvis Costello, an album which was unmistakably made in the Eighties but which still stands tall thirty years on, thanks to the quality of its songwriting. I’m still not sure what particular artistic statement Vernon might be making by evoking middle of the road pop-rock schlock of old, but it’s not the enormo-howler some would have you believe. It’s more ‘Yuko & Hiro’ than ‘S.Y.M.M.‘ as end of album curveballs go.

There is much bigger, fully-fleshed out band sound to this album, which I gather is replicated pretty majestically onstage. It ensures that there’s a little more going on in all of these songs and the delicate way in which ‘Towers’ builds is a hushed delight, the drums only putting in an appearance in the second half of the track, and even then fleetingly. This is a great example of how to go ‘big’ without actually sounding excessive. It’s not fifteen orchestras, eighty-five overdubs and grandeur over quality. Yes, more money’s been spent and no, it’s no longer one man and his beard. But that’s already been done anyway.

The debut’s ubiquity meant that it got a little worn out at one point, anti-hype kicking in and restricting its emotional weight, and it is the substantial impact of that record which will ensure that people are ready and willing to give this release a shot. No bad thing, as I can’t imagine that the breakthrough would have been on the cards with ‘Bon Iver’. A delicate curio originating from the JagJaguwar stable (though released in the UK via 4AD) with gorgeous artwork and a handwritten lyric booklet, this should really be a bloggers’ favourite which cleans up in critical circles and sells a few hundred copies. Inevitably, it’s not been quite so critically lauded as the debut but that this was actually one of the most anticipated releases of 2011 is actually quite heartening, and shouldn’t take away from the fact that it’s actually a cracking set of songs.

20 from ‘11 so far – Part 1

I like lists. Even a brief browse of the site should make that pretty clear. As a result, read on for the first half of Just Played’s Top 20 albums from the first half of 2011. Where I’ve already reviewed the album in question, there is a link through to it, along with a listen link to Spotify and a buy link through to the marvellous Rise site, who’ll sort you out with the tunes pretty sharpish. Feel free to agree, mutter abuse or supply your own lists below. Right then…

20. Noah And The Whale – ‘Last Night On Earth’ (MERCURY)

Noah WhaleI didn’t see this coming. The debut annoyed the hell out of me and, as a result, I came late to their rather lovely, if raw, second outing, ‘The First Days Of Spring’. This is a long way from either and is a record which took some time to learn to love. However, it’s one of the feel-good indie pop records of the year to date and will sound amazing should we get much more sun. Lovely vinyl pressing comes with bonus 7” too.

“‘Last Night On Earth’, however, is the one I’ll be merrily recommending to all who’ll listen and cherry picking for my end of year compilation. Only the ruptured heart of a self-loathing blowhard could find anything to dislike about ‘Waiting For My Chance To Come’.”

Read the full review

Listen / Buy

19. Wild Beasts – Smother’ (DOMINO)

Wild-Beasts-SmotherThe bold and sizeable leap from ‘Limbo, Panto’ to ‘Two Dancers’ was an impressive enough feat, but with ‘Smother’ Wild Beasts have honed their craft and perfected their sound. There’s been much talk of Talk Talk in recent pieces about the band and there’s certainly something of the Hollis sound to parts of this album but it’s far from being derivative. Slightly less wilfully and protrudingly pervy than its predecessor, ‘Smother’ possesses a layered and fluid sound and has been produced superbly. Guitar lines are contorted and extended, serving to underline emotions conveyed by the typically forthright lyrics. A gloriously musical album, if that doesn’t sound too stupid, Wild Beasts’ third outing is one which I still think has plenty to reveal, even at this stage.

Listen / Buy

18. The Leisure Society – ‘Into The Murky Water’ (FULL TIME HOBBY)

the-leisure-society-into-murky-waterThe first album resulted in Ivor Novello triumphs and bemused Five Live presenters having to interview frontman Nick Hemming, despite seeming to know nothing about him or his music. While ‘The Sleeper’ featured a number of beautifully constructed songs, it’s on ‘Into The Murky Water’ that they’ve truly blossomed. Although frequently described as folky, this is orchestrated indie pop with an arch sensibility and a raised eyebrow. I’m reminded, and I mean this as a compliment, of some of Mull Historical Society’s finer moments at times and ‘You Could Keep Me Talking’, a ludicrously catchy little tune, is a good snapshot of the album’s joyous sound.

Listen / Buy

17. Radiohead – The King Of Limbs’ (XL RECORDINGS)

KoLIt’s not perfect and it’s not their best. But, that doesn’t make it bad or, to these ears at least, a disappointment. There’s much to love here and the more I’ve played it, the more I’ve warmed to its eight tracks. Wonderful moments like ‘Little By Little’, ‘Codex’ and ‘Giving Up The Ghost’ are enduring delights which all have aspects of the familiar Radiohead approach People seem to be complaining that the band haven’t taken a massive leap forward with their sound and yet eleven years ago there were cries about them failing to do another ‘OK Computer’ and fourteen years ago there were some complaints when ‘OK Computer’ wasn’t another ‘The Bends’. Yep, the band have got familiar with a certain sound but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some wonderful songs here. Forgive the defensive tone of this comment, but I do really think there are some great songs here, some months after all the hype, and, as I said in the original review, people would benefit from switching all desire to judge and simply listening…a lot.

“Once it clicks, you’ll likely find yourself sitting there wondering what exactly it was about it that confused you in the first place. Just like walking down dark streets to find somewhere you’ve never previously been to before only to find the return journey seems much quicker and considerably less threatening, the more full plays you give ‘The King Of Limbs’, the less any of it jars or seems wilfully perverse.”

Read the full review

Listen / Buy

16. Sarabeth Tucek – ‘Get Well Soon’ (SONIC CATHEDRAL)

Sarabeth Tucek Get Well SoonFollowing up a debut which was already no slouch, Sarabeth Tucek’s next step was this utterly beautiful record; a soundtrack to a number of difficult and distressing events, packaged like a late Sixties, cult singer/songwriter album of note. And that’s sort of how it sounds too. Cat Power, Callahan and Karen Dalton fans should all check in here for some wonderfully understated and finely crafted music for the soul.

“It’s the sort of album you’ll tell people about excitedly and buy for the sensitive types in your life. The album’s final lines offer a measured sense of optimism and triumph: “It just takes time, get well soon. I was once just like you, get well soon.” Many great records have been birthed out of traumatic or intense periods of an artist’s life, and to that list of fine albums can be added ‘Get Well Soon’.”

Read the full review

Listen / Buy

15. The Middle East‘I Want That You Are Always Happy’ (PIAS)

I_Want_That_You_Are_Always_Happy-ArtworkThis was a complete punt, having been drawn in by the artwork and its appearance on a couple of record shops’ recommended lists. Parts of it are hauntingly lo-fi, some bits are winningly janglesome and there are occasional moments of genuinely bleak introspection. It makes for a varied and curious early listen and my first impressions were muddled. Whilst at first the fluid approach to genre and sound can make the record seem fragmented, repeated plays give it space to breathe and time to ensnare you. For me, it was a walk in the rain, with the album seeping up from the background to suddenly coalesce into something which has held my attention ever since. I haven’t yet written in detail about ‘I Want That You Are Always Happy’ because it’s so hard to categorise but I may have to work on that, as I suspect it will be higher up the list when I come to put together the more detailed end of year overview. Hugely recommended, but make sure you give it a few plays.

Listen / Buy

14. R.E.M. – ‘Collapse Into Now’ (WARNERS)

rem-collapse-into-nowIt’s not perfect and it’s not their best. But, as a long time fan of R.E.M., it was a joyous listen and it is their best since the turn of the millennium. Yes, ‘Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter’ does contain some pretty shit lyrics and, no, I don’t know why there’s that needless reprise at the end of ‘Blue’ either but there are some wonderful songs here and, for the first time in a while, their capacity to genuinely move me is back. The chorus of ‘Uberlin’ is vintage mid-paced R.E.M. while the short, sharp adrenalin burst of ‘That Someone Is You’ is close to melodic pop perfection, departing just shy of the two minute mark. ‘Walk It Back’ is the album highlight and its shuffling, understated delivery is one of Stipe’s finest recorded moments since ‘I’ve Been High’. If you want them to sound like Eighties R.E.M. then move along now and buy the ‘Lifes Rich Pageant’ reissue but if you still have time for this band then I would be very surprised to hear that you were anything other than pleased with this largely excellent record.

Listen / Buy

13. Iron & Wine – ‘Kiss Each Other Clean’ (4AD)

I&WThis album is curiously evocative of snow for me, despite sounding like it belongs in the sunshine. I was reviewing it during the ludicrously heavy snow fall of early December 2010 and, as such, I sometimes forget that this is actually a 2011 release. The cover is, clearly, ace and the music follows suit. While the gentle, lulling swoop of older material is rather less prominent now, Sam Beam’s music is never less than meticulously crafted and deeply affecting. ‘Godless Brother In Love’ and ‘Tree By The River’ are both absolute gems and just nudge several other tracks to be the highlights, but it’s a pretty close run thing. The music has smoother edges than on ‘The Shepherd’s Dog’ and the Seventies FM radio references in the early press material do make sense, but this is still clearly Iron & Wine and, by extension, tremendous.

“These ten songs ooze warmth, littered with classic rock gear changes, acoustic thrums and shuffling bass but the rhythmic schizophrenia from the last outing still remains intact. Although ‘Kiss Each Other Clean’ is yet further down the road from ‘Our Endless Numbered Days’, it is still quite distinctively Iron & Wine. That said, if early outings left you cold and wishing that there was a little more meat on the bones, then this might be the time to commit some cash for a re-evaluation.”

Read the full review

Listen / Buy

12. My Morning Jacket – ‘Circuital’ (V2)

My-Morning-Jacket-CircuitalOccasionally a song is so good it can eclipse the rest of an album, somewhat. That is the case with ‘Holdin’ On To Black Metal’, a song so absolutely enormous it is impossible to hear on headphones without commencing a strutting swagger replete with the sensation that you are now eight foot tall and completely invincible. It’s a song you’ll play five times in a row, a song with a children’s choir and a song with horn stabs to which you can thrust limbs in an angular fashion. And the rest of it’s pretty special too. Opener ‘Victory Dance’ is a thundering way to begin while ‘Wonderful (The Way I Feel)’ is intimate and positive without ever bordering on being saccharine, despite its title. There’s a cracking 45rpm double vinyl pressing which is the best way to experience such a sonically pleasing record.

Listen / Buy

11. Bon Iver‘Bon Iver’ (4AD)

bon iverIt was always going to be tough to follow up critics’ choice and all rounder indie sleeper smash, ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ but Justin Vernon doesn’t seem to have struggled too much, on this evidence. While I liked the debut, I grew a little tired of it due largely to the good lady’s borderline obsession with it which ensured it was playing somewhere in the house almost every day for a year. This is a leap on, with a different mood, subject matter and sonic palette. Oh, the saxophone. It’s still relatively early days for this one and I can envisage it getting plenty of plays during hazy summer evenings and slowly becoming as well-worn as its predecessor. It hangs together splendidly and I’m even inclined to forgive ‘Beth/Rest’ its excesses the more I play it. Be sure to check out the cover of ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ I mentioned previously, which appeared as a b-side to first single ‘Calgary’.

“It’s an album which sounds curiously out of time. Which is not to say it is timeless, far from it in fact. ‘Bon Iver’ sounds pointedly dated at certain moments, not least on album closer ‘Beth/Rest’, which has predictably provoked buckets of wrath for its Eighties soft-rock tones. While there are undeniably contemporary references here and there, it has the feeling of a moderately successful record of old, its beauty shining through despite the particular clothes of the time it has come from.”

Read the full review

Listen / Buy

2011OTR

Literally Just Played

This month’s Clash reviews will be posted up shortly, but here’s a few current and forthcoming tunes which I have actually played quite recently for you to have a wee listen to. Can you tell I’ve been tinkering with Soundcloud at long last?

Firstly, from the marvellous ‘Fomo’, this is new from Liam Finn, entitled ‘The Struggle‘:


I’m currently working on a review of their upcoming album, but this is a fine way to launch their latest incarnation – new from Bombay Bicycle Club, this is ‘Shuffle‘.

 The new album from The Rapture is a delight. I’ve even uttered the word ‘banging’ about this particular track. Apologies. But listen to this and try not to whirl around and clap in a malcoordinated fashion at some point. It’s called ‘How Deep Is Your Love’.

This is from a wonderful new album upcoming on Bella Union from Jonathan Wilson entitled ‘Gentle Spirit’, and this is called ‘The Way I Feel’. Click through and you’ll be able to find the whole album for a listen:

And finally, this is the sublime Bon Iver cover of ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ which I tweeted about over the weekend. Magnificent stuff, on the flip of the ‘Calgary‘ 12″.

The Just Played Verdict: Bon Iver–‘Bon Iver’

The weight of expectation is a curious beast. Sometimes it can work in your favour: Ian McEwan‘s lightweight ‘Amsterdam‘ getting plaudits after the failure to duly reward the majesty of ‘Enduring Love’, ‘Be Here Now‘ getting five star reviews after lukewarm responses to ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?‘ On other occasions it can leave with you no chance: most Radiohead albums since 2000 and the tiresome ‘is it as good as OK Computer or Kid A‘ comparisons. And then there are those who think "fuck it, people will give this a chance because of the last one" and crack on, doing their own thing. And while Justin Vernon doesn’t suddenly unleash a new line in scatting jazz vocals here, ‘Bon Iver’ is quite pointedly not ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ part two.

bon iver

Exactly what it is, is another matter. It’s a pretty record, blessed with all sorts of sonic smuggery which charmed me from the off, and it’s an album which sounds curiously out of time. Which is not to say it is timeless, far from it in fact. ‘Bon Iver’ sounds pointedly dated at certain moments, not least on album closer ‘Beth/Rest’, which has predictably provoked buckets of wrath for its Eighties soft-rock tones. While there are undeniably contemporary references here and there, it has the feeling of a moderately successful record of old, its beauty shining through despite the particular clothes of the time it has come from. Think ‘Punch The Clock’ by Elvis Costello, an album which was unmistakably made in the Eighties but which still stands tall thirty years on, thanks to the quality of its songwriting. I’m still not sure what particular artistic statement Vernon might be making by evoking middle of the road pop-rock schlock of old, but it’s not the enormo-howler some would have you believe. It’s more ‘Yuko & Hiro’ than ‘S.Y.M.M.‘ as end of album curveballs go.

Continue reading “The Just Played Verdict: Bon Iver–‘Bon Iver’”

22. S. Carey–All We Grow

Best of 2010Sometimes music just seems to appear from nowhere. It might be the long forgotten pop song which triggers strands of youthful memories played across the tinny speakers of a busy shop or the vivid, emotional response to an unheard track puncturing the familiarity of everyday radio listening. For some albums, the build up to release results in a whirlwind of hype and expectation, the online community’s militant assertion that a leak is somehow owed them resulting in all kinds of ridiculous instant opinions being formed and posted in an attempt to be the first to assert value. But those which just pop up from nowhere, just as isolated songs occasionally and invigoratingly can, are sometimes far better served by circumventing all of that fabricated hysteria and simply sitting there, waiting for you to love them. I was only alerted to this album by a brief comment by Lauren Laverne on 6Music back in summer and as a result when a promo copy appeared it caught my eye. And, soon thereafter, my ear.

s carey all we grow

Offering a fine balance between the euphoric and the melancholic, the celebratory and sentimental, ‘All We Grow’ is an album to make sure you always have to hand. There are times here when Sean Carey’s role as drummer with Bon Iver seems hardly surprising, but there are also moments that sound as deliciously combative as Radiohead on ‘There There’ and as sweetly forlorn as Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam on, well, most of his albums. It is a collection of songs which is simultaneously enormous and yet reluctant to show off. It’s a tall man with broad shoulders walking with both hands buried deep in his trouser pockets and his shoulders slightly hunched. The insistent, unsettling piano at the start of ‘We Fell’ was the moment when it became clear that ‘All We Grow’ wants to take you somewhere. The gracious, angelic vocal which sits atop the repetitive pounding of the keys seems almost at odds with its accompaniment until somewhere around the three minute mark, where harmonies are set free to drift and a separate, more inviting piano line wends its way into the mix. It is a staggering four minutes and fifty-four seconds of music.

In The Dirt’ features another repeated refrain, this time based around echoing handclaps pushed to the outer reaches of the soundstage, leaving something far warmer in the middle from whence the song seems to re-gather itself before setting out on a more mournful manoeuvre, only for the claps to return, along with a heavier thud, just to further enhance the intensity. The delicate layering of sound, testing the impact of repetition and interrelated sounds suggests a more than minor jazz sensibility and some of the rangier moments on ‘All We Grow’ certainly defy easy labelling. ‘Action’ is the moment when the dark, brooding ‘There There’ similarities come into play, though the absence of a vocal ensures that the listener’s focus is entirely on how the instruments work with and against each other.

In The Stream’ spends its first three minutes sounding like it would fit in perfectly on ‘Our Endless Numbered Days’ before opening up a little and indulging in the conjuring of a jazzier landscape, one which initially seems a little unnecessary but builds to something rather euphoric before Carey’s vocals return to seal the deal. The album’s title track pursues this further with Bill Frisell-esque guitar strands running across various instrumental passages, at times coalescing into an oddly warm drone.

Wisely, Carey holds back ‘Broken’ to form an epic finale which, though following the conventional ‘slow start, gradual build, massive wash of sound to finish’ formula, is utterly spellbinding. Hushed, almost muttered vocals talk of being “tired of life”, the reckoning bell of the repeated piano chug behind him echoing the sentiment before a dull roar crawls into earshot, gradually rising to a point where it tires itself out, only to usher in the final swathes of mournful instrumentation. I was left, headphones still clasped to my head, staring out the window at the greying skies both haunted and hugely satisfied. And ready for another go. ‘All We Grow’ rewards regular visits and, so subtle are some of the layers of sound, there’s a great deal to discover over time: time which will be very pleasantly spent indeed.

The Just Played Verdict: S. Carey – ‘All We Grow’

Sometimes music just seems to appear from nowhere. It might be the long forgotten pop song which triggers strands of youthful memories played across the tinny speakers of a busy shop or the vivid, emotional response to an unheard track puncturing the familiarity of everyday radio listening. For some albums, the build up to release results in a whirlwind of hype and expectation, the online community’s militant assertion that a leak is somehow owed them resulting in all kinds of ridiculous instant opinions being formed and posted in an attempt to be the first to assert value. But those which just pop up from nowhere, just as isolated songs occasionally and invigoratingly can, are sometimes far better served by circumventing all of that fabricated hysteria and simply sitting there, waiting for you to love them. I was only alerted to this album by a brief comment by Lauren Laverne at the tail-end of last week and, as a result of its name being lodged away somewhere in the incessant mental clutter, when details of it appeared in an email a few days ago I thought it might be worth a listen.

s carey all we grow

Like so many people this week, I listened to ‘The Suburbs’ in the hope of finding the euphoric and melancholic, the celebratory and sentimental, the contrasting but complimentary emotions that Arcade Fire have previously rendered so convincingly on record. I’m not sure that I did though. That’s not to say that it’s a bad listen and I suspect I may not have noticed quite so blatantly what it was I felt it was lacking had I not followed it, quite unsuspectingly, with ‘All We Grow’. There are times here when Sean Carey’s role as drummer with Bon Iver seems hardly surprising, but there are also moments that sound as deliciously combative as Radiohead on ‘There There’ and as sweetly forlorn as Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam on, well, most of his albums. It is a collection of songs which is simultaneously enormous and yet reticent to show off. It’s a tall man with broad shoulders walking with both hands buried deep in his trouser pockets and his shoulders slightly hunched. The insistent, unsettling piano at the start of ‘We Fell’ was the moment when it became clear that ‘All We Grow’ wants to take you somewhere. The gracious, angelic vocal which sits atop the repetitive pounding of the keys seems almost at odds with its accompaniment until somewhere around the three minute mark, where harmonies are set free to drift and a separate, more inviting piano line wends its way into the mix. It is a staggering four minutes and fifty-four seconds of music.

In The Dirt’ features another repeated refrain, this time based around echoing handclaps pushed to the outer reaches of the sound, leaving something far warmer in the middle from whence the song seems to re-gather itself before setting out on a more mournful manoeuvre, only for the claps to return, along with a heavier thud, just to further enhance the intensity. The delicate layering of sound, testing the impact of repetition and interrelated sounds suggests a more than minor jazz sensibility and some of the rangier moments on ‘All We Grow’ certainly defy easy labelling. ‘Action’ is the moment when the dark, brooding ‘There There’ similarities come into play, though the absence of a vocal ensures that the listener’s focus is all on how the instruments work with and against each other.

scarey1

In The Stream’ spends its first three minutes sounding like it would fit in perfectly on ‘Our Endless Numbered Days’ before opening up a little and indulging in the conjuring of a jazzier landscape, one which initially seems a little unnecessary but builds to something rather euphoric before Carey’s vocals return to seal the deal. The album’s title track pursues this further with Bill Frisell-esque guitar strands running across various instrumental passages, at times coalescing into an oddly warm drone.

Wisely, Carey holds back ‘Broken’ to form an epic finale which, though following the conventional ‘slow start, gradual build, massive wash of sound to finish’ formula, is utterly spellbinding. Hushed, almost muttered vocals talk of being “tired of life”, the reckoning bell of the repeated piano chug behind him echoing the sentiment before a dull roar crawls into earshot, gradually rising to a point where it tires itself out, only to usher in the final swathes of mournful instrumentation. I was left, headphones still clasped to my head, staring out the window at the greying skies both haunted and hugely satisfied. And ready for another go. ‘All We Grow’ rewards regular visits and, so subtle are some of the layers of sound, there’s a great deal to discover over time: time which will be very pleasantly spent indeed.

All We Grow’ is released by Jagjaguwar on August 30th.

Download ‘In The Dirt’ from Jagjaguwar here and click here for more information from the label.

2010 inverted

30. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

jp 40 30

For ages, I thought that the line in ‘Skinny Love’ went, “and I told you to be patient, I told you to be fine, I told you to be badass.” And, a little part of me still thinks that that would make it just a little bit cooler. Cool lyrics or not, ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ is a beautifully emotive record and one which was absolutely everywhere last year. Sadly, the good lady became absolutely obsessed with it and so, when wandering about the house for months on end, I heard little else. It did, I’ll confess, start to piss me off slightly. However, as is so often the case with over-played but splendid albums, I weaned her off it and gave it a little rest.

30 Bon Iver

Since returning to it, and listening rather more sporadically than before, I’ve remember why I fell in love with it in the first place. At times, the spaces between the notes are almost as important as the notes themselves on a record as sparse as this. While the mood is hardly buoyant, this downbeat album doesn’t fall into the wallowing category I mentioned when profiling Beck’s ‘Sea Change’. The multi-tracked vocals instil a certain sense of euphoria and numerous tracks are truly invigorating, not least ‘The Wolves (Act I & II)’. With a title like that it should really be pretentious shite, but it builds to a chaotic middle eight that roams all over the place before returning to more subdued fare to close out the first half of proceedings.

The curiously fragile but effortlessly melodic voice is the key here. While the musical arrangements are never less than excellent, the effect of a special voice can never be overstated. When they click, they truly click and you’re never likely to fall out of love with those songs. Such voices often inspire heated debate and, for example, there are many more people who hate Tom Waits’ voice than love it. While Justin Vernon’s voice is nothing like the corrosive tones of Waits, it is similarly affecting.

If you hadn’t arrived at it of your own accord, it would have been easy to write this album off as a result of all the hype that surrounded it in the music press and on various music message boards last year but you’d be wrong to deprive yourself of this album. To be more precise, you’d be plain foolish to never treat yourself to album closer ‘Re: Stacks’, which was is one of the finest tracks from the last decade.