As Bon Iver, Justin Vernon mixes the solitary directness of folk songs with the grandeur of ambient and soundtrack music – a strategy that makes his best songs breast-beatingly transcendent and his worst a mush of emotions. His second collaboration with fellow Wisconsinites Collections of Colonies of Bees highlights these tendencies in roughly equal measure. Highlights "Comrade" and "Alaskans" are abstract but inspiringly muscular, while other songs drift into panoramas of tentative guitar lines, distant whooshing sounds and Vernon's wounded falsetto singing couplets not even he would dare make sense of. Real life contains plenty of shapeless beauty already.
From The Archives Issue 1192: September 26, 2013