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bon iver - Bon Iver
**Includes digital download code redeemable from the label** Expectations are sky high for Justin Veron's sophomore album and, thankfully, he's managed to deliver a follow-up that doesn't ape the high points of its predecessor, yet manages to be just as great in its own way. If 'For Emma...' was indebted to The Red House Painters, this eponymous record owes just as much to Bruce Hornsby and early 80s Genesis. From the light electric piano flourishes of 'Beth/Rest' to the twinkling synthesizers and horns that drape most of the tracks, the album is Vernon's answer to soft rock, and it's a canny move. Sure it might not be the coolest genre, especially since the Williamsburg hipster set have managed to forget why they loved the Doobie Brothers in the first place, but that's exactly why Vernon's compositions seem so soulful. He mentioned in a recent interview that he never realized the genre was so maligned, and it shows - there's a melancholy sincerity to these songs that defies the trappings of the soft rock genre it seeks to emulate. While the opening of 'Holoscene' bears more than a passing resemblance to Christopher Cross's 'Sailing', none of the drug addled, starry-eyed, boat party excess dares to emerge; instead we're treated to the same kind of deeply affecting songs Vernon introduced us to on his debut and none of the passion and solitude has been lost. There might be a high gloss finish to these tracks, but trust us, get just beneath the surface and you'll find one of the year's most heartwarming listens.