There has been a lot of press hyping the new Bon Iver album ’22, A Million’. There’s been album previews and listening events of the LP around the world, including in London and Melbourne. It makes you start to question, does it overshadow the album as a whole? The answer is a resounding no. Justin Vernon and co. have produced an album as raw and vulnerable as any of their previous releases.
The record opens with the haunting lyrics, ‘it might be over soon’. This immediately sets the tone for one of the most honest Bon Iver releases to date. ’22, A Million’ lays everything on the line for Vernon, not that we’d expect anything less from one of the most influential musicians of the past decade. His music hits you right ‘in the feels’ and makes you confront and feel deep seeded emotions you didn’t even know you had.
Throughout the 10 songs Bon Iver combine minimalist sounds and heavy instrumentation in a way that works harmoniously. He brings sounds together so uniquely and beautifully. It showcases both sides of Bon Iver we’ve come to know and love – the individual and honest artist and the sonic wizard of sound. Some of the softer moments include ’29 Strafford APTS’, ‘___45__’ and ‘715 – Creeks’. The three tracks use auto-tune, guitar and vocals as a way of conveying Vernon’s heavy emotion. And in terms of auto-tune, is there an artist that makes it sound more beautiful than him?
‘10 d E A T h b R E a s T’ is one of the harder, more tribal sounding tracks on the album. It reminds you of a beat that would fit seamlessly on Kanye West’s ‘808s & Heartbreaks’ album. Speaking of West, there is a key reason why he seeks out and respects Vernon’s talents, it’s because his production (like his own) is other-worldly. As musicians this is a key reason why they connect.
This album further illustrates how important the vocals are to Bon Iver as a musician. They are a way of conveying his soul and emotion. The lyrics aren’t necessarily the driving force (as gorgeous as they are) but how he uses and contorts his voice as an instrument is something to behold. ’33 God’ is clear evidence of this. It is one of the songs of the year and is pure Bon Iver in all its beauty and glory. It’s raw, heartfelt, melodic and just so God-damn pretty.
’22, A Million’ sees Bon Iver exploring and collating new sounds so beautifully while also remaining true to Vernon’s core as an artist and individual.
’22, A Million’ is out now