Following on from a three-year hiatus, everyone’s preferred indie folk band Bon Iver have been rebirthed, and bring with them their third album, 22, A Million. With hard-to-decipher track names and founder Justin Vernon recommending you listen to it “in a place where you can feel alone”, it’s apparent from the off that 22, A Million sticks to the incumbent roots of Bon Iver, with a 180-degree twist.
22, A Million opens up with the already released, Aphex Twin-esque, experimental, and morphing tracks ‘22 (OVER S∞∞N)’, ‘10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⊠ ⊠’, and ‘33 “GOD”’ – the vocals-only and auto tuned ‘715 – CRΣΣKS’ finds itself sandwiched in between, acting as a sweet lapse before normal service is resumed.
The intimacy of 22, A Million is astounding and is reminiscent of the debut For Emma, Forever Ago; particularly on ’29 #Strafford APTS’ where the acoustic guitar is brought into play. ‘____45_____’ offers descending and clashing vocals accompanied by woodwind samples to produce a fluctuating piece, where you’re not quite sure if it’s coming or going, but it’s great wherever it goes. And of course, no Bon Iver record is complete without the whisper-like vocals that find themselves at home on ‘666 ʇ’.
Clocking in as the longest on the album, ‘8 (circle)’ flows seamlessly through from the robotic and dreamy sounds of ‘21 M♢♢N WATER’ – a track which motions away from the sometimes complacence of acoustic music, and shifts to a sentimental, sample-heavy track. ‘8 (circle)’ moves to a truly dazzling slow burning song of solitude and reflection.
Closing up the LP, ‘00000 Million’ brings about a triumphant and breath taking revert to styles of Bon Iver-past to end an album of defiance and innovation. As the last piano note rings out, it’s obvious just how anomalous and spectacular Bon Iver are, with 22, A Million holding itself as the most heart wrenching of their releases to date. With the repetitive use of high-pitched backing vocals, it’s expected that it’d wear on and become a bit unnecessary as the album progresses but this isn’t quite the case. The intertwining of differently pitched vocals, synthesisers, guitars and just about every sample under the sun makes for a poignant return to form.
22, A Million is like Justin Vernon stumbled out from those woods he wrote and recorded Bon Iver’s folk debut in, absorbed their delicate sophomore release, and emerged in a world of electronica, clinging onto the usual melancholia and rawness.