By: Bobby Beebe
Justin Vernon took just three years in between his 2008 debut record as Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago and the highly anticipated self-titled follow up. The results of this three year gap definitely saw Vernon moving beyond the folky, acoustic underpinnings of his debut, utilizing more electronic and orchestral sounds. Just as this growth began to reveal itself, Vernon hung Bon Iver up, claiming that all of the attention that band was garnering was distracting and compromising his love for it.
Now Vernon is back with 22, A Million the third full LP from the project and another sign of significant growth. 22, A Million in a lot of ways reflects Vernon’s post-Bon Iver ventures, specifically his collaborations with British electronic soul artist James Blake. The record is dominated by electronic sounds and vocal manipulation which leaves the lyrics on the record indecipherable. The record is at the very least cluttered and confused. But not in a distracting way, in a way which completely makes sense. The whirling, sprawling chaotic nature of the music provides a perfect backdrop for the stories which Vernon aims to tell.
That is not to say that this is a completely new type of record for Bon Iver. The fragmented poetry that has served as a centerpiece of nearly all of Vernon’s work. It is most evident when Vernon’s smooth falsetto deepens into a maon, like at the end of “715 – CR∑∑KS” when he croons “God damn, turn around you’re my A-team” or in “33 – GOD” when a panic-stricken voice pierces through chaotic drum machines to sing “I didn’t need you that night/not gonna need you any time/Was gonna take it as it goes/I could go forward in the light/Well I better fold my clothes.” It is in these moments where snap shot imagery and vagueness clash with sonic overload that Vernon is able to draw his audience in.
22, A Million may be not be what fans were hoping for or expecting when the announcement came for a new Bon Iver record, but it is certainly what they deserved. It is clear that in his sabbatical Vernon has sharpened his craft and thought a lot more clearly about what it means to pour himself into a project.
1. LVL Up Reason To Love
2. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
3. LKFFCT – The Flower In
4. CCR Headcleaner – Tear Down The Wall
5. Violent Soho – Waco
6. Heaven For Real – Kill Your Memory
7. Bellows – Fist and Palm
8. Local Natives – Sunlit Youth
9. Air Traffic Controller – Black Box
10. Glass Animals – To be a Human