When I heard that Bon Iver had released a new album I was ready and excited for the melodic instrumentals and dulcet falsetto vocals that make you think of cliché December evenings. However, Justin Vernon’s majestic song writing delivered so much more.
22, A Million – the band’s third studio album- moves away from Vernon’s previous folky instrumentals and introduces a more synthesised sound that is reminiscent of Kanye West’s compositions. The whole album is a skilful mixture of both technology and tradition which moulds to create a truly unique sound that is quite unlike anything I have listened to in 2016 so far.
The first song, “22 (OVER S∞∞N)”, sets the tone for a distinctive album. The unusual sound that kicks off the song serves as an interesting backdrop for some stereotypically stunning but diverse Vernon vocals. This is joined by a colourful saxophone solo and even after you listen to the whole album, this song still lingers in your head.
It also seems as though Vernon got some sampling tips off Kanye. Later on through 22, A Million he poignantly uses a Paolo Nutini lyric from the song “Iron Sky” [Caustic Love, 2014] in “33 “GOD””. It accompanies a beautiful piano melody that is juxtaposed to distorted and dirty drumming beats. After the loud and slightly eerie ending of “33 “GOD””, the song “29 #Strafford APTS” harks back to more familiar Bon Iver sounds. We are granted some truly emotive vocals that seem to reflect the tone the album will ultimately end on.
“8 (circle)”, the longest song of the album, is five minutes of heaven. Vernon drops his falsetto notes in favour of an earthy first verse that is full of passion and depth. He gently ramps up to a multi-layered chorus accompanied by more sounds from the soulful saxophone. The song ends on a real high with quite an abrupt finish, which then moves into the more country and folky feel of the penultimate song, “____45____”. The folk tradition is again mixed with some smooth saxophone which contrasts surprisingly well with the banjo solo.
This iconic album ends with the moving notes of “00000 Million” which have a real feeling of finality to them. You finish the album feeling incredibly calm and moved, despite the rollercoaster that this album takes you on. Bon Iver have pulled off a stirring and seductive new album that you be playing on repeat during and beyond these autumnal months.