It has been more than three years since listeners got their mitts on Bon Iver‘s first album, the heart-squeezing folk stunner For Emma, Forever Ago. Justin Vernon and his fellows tided fans over in 2009 with the Blood Bank EP, but 2010 left everyone cranky. Vernon spent the year flitting around with Gayngs, and the sample of “Woods” on Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy served as an acute reminder of Bon Iver’s absence. But 2011 is looking up: Behold, a new track from Bon Iver titled “Calgary” and slated to appear on the upcoming self-titled LP.
“Calgary” opens with a warm synth sound, whose constancy and lack of tinny artificiality make it reminiscent of muted and filtered brass. Vernon’s stark falsetto breaks through this curtain for a few lines before the music stops for a beat and then returns with an additional bass synth line that gives the sound deeper dimension. The song takes another breath before drums and squiggly electronic blips join Vernon’s layered voice, then sharp guitars distort into the most aggressive segment of the song.
At this point, Vernon has either doubled and tripled his own vocal or he has roped in some guests to spread the sound before dropping back down to the solo voice he used to start the track. He replaces the synths of the beginning with acoustic guitar and soft drumming, and he ends “Calgary” on this percussion and what sounds like a faint, indecipherable voice recording, like something saved from an answering machine.
The song shows Vernon and the rest of Bon Iver building on the somber sensitivity of For Emma with more adventurous instrumental twists. It’s not just Emma on steroids though—this moves like a well-planned story. And if the rest of Bon Iver resembles this, it’s going to make for an epic read.
Use the widget above to stream and download “Calgary,” catch Bon Iver on tour this summer, and grab the new album June 21.