'22, A Million' - Bon Iver
22, A Million was an album I was scared about. At first, I hated the initial singles. ‘10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄’ was impossible for me to get my head around at first. However, after listening to the two tracks (‘22 (OVER S∞∞N)’ was also released at the same time), it started to make a lot more sense and the hype train began.
As you’d expect, 22, A Million has taken a 3 point turn from the style of their sophomore album. The music unfolding makes for a far more experimental and electronic album. Whereas ‘Bon Iver’ played with the idea of ‘big, bold, brass’ and threw those instruments as mere atmosphere, this album introduces synths, auto-tune, talk boxes and even a metronome, instruments unheard of for the music project that brought us ‘Holocene’ and ‘Skinny Love’. It’s worth remembering the man behind the music here, Justin Vernon. A man who’s adaptive enough to have worked with UK folk trio The Staves (my favourite musical artist(s) to come out of 2012) and then produce tracks with Kanye for Yeezus. Well, the album credits tell me that Ye pops up at some point. I can’t for the life of me find where, which is annoying, because I wanted to stick that track in Ableton and try to remove him from this album.
It’s one of the things that don’t belong in this album, Kanye and the second track. ’10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄’, though it gets better after a few listens, it still feels like the runt of this album. It sounds like it should be the bonus track on a Kanye album. I don’t connect with the track. I don’t have an opinion on it. It’s just there. Sticking out like a really, really swollen sore thumb.
What this album does do is take Bon Iver to a far more complex playing field. One would argue that this album can get more done with the use of analogue and electric instruments. Distortion has an effect on the track ’29 #Stafford APTS’. It sounds a lot like a track from ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ but the auto-tune harmonies and the distortion improve the emotion of the track.
As far as lyrics go, I, like everyone else, need to sit with this album some more. But little needs to be said about them. Deep and borderline obnoxious, it still works even on this new album. To the point where a new word has been invented - “fuckified”.
Listening to this album more than once shouldn’t be a problem though, it’s only 35mins long. It’s just over the average length of an EP. Disappointing? Yes. But it’s easy to get lost in a Bon Iver album, this one is no exception.
I think that overall, this album works, there’s only one ‘bad’ track and the rest seems to just work. It’s an implicitly beautiful album, the fact that it’s experimental is just the icing on top.
22, A Million is out on now on Jagjaguwar