Bon Iver
“Blood Bank”

4 out of 5 stars

In 2008, no album came close to the emotional palpability of Bon Iver’s debut, For Emma, Forever Ago. “Blood Bank,” the EP’s title track, finds the one-time recluse trading his acoustic guitar for an electric and his stripped-down aesthetic for a more full-band sound. Still, no passion is lost in the transition. The song retains everything that made For Emma: wintry imagery, soothing melodies and a vague sense of redemption. It starts off familiar, gentle and inviting, and slowly builds to a climax of feedback and falsetto. If this is the sound of things to come, it should be another very good year for Justin Vernon.

Andrew Bird
“Oh No”
Fat Possum

2.5 out of 5 Stars

For those salivating over the pending arrival of Noble Beast, “Oh No” will serve as a savory appetizer. The track is vintage Bird, complete with whimsical whistling, spectral strings and colorfully surreal lyrics about calcium mines and sociopaths. But this cuddly nostalgia comes at a price: For an artist as innovative as Bird, “Oh No” tastes surprisingly stale. It marks the calcification of his freewheeling tropes into a predictable formula. Hopefully, the rest of Beast can pop this bubble of music-single déjà vu.

“I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris”
Lost Highway

4 out of 5 stars

Some things never change. “Nobody wants my love,” the 49-year-old king of gloom Morrissey laments on the first single off his forthcoming album, Years of Refusal. Moz employs a cheery guitar line to create the illusion of a happy melody, but as the song continues, the strings crescendo and give the song a more typical-for-Morrissey distressed mood. However, there is a bit of a twist in Years: Moz has finally found something to ease his depression. For whatever reason, he has found solace in Paris. Unfortunately, inanimate objects are the limit for his success in relationships, as he croons “…only stone and steel accept my love.” The song is classic Moz, and that’s a good thing.

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