By Grant Morris
Artist: Bon Iver
Album: 22, A Million
Released: September 30th, 2016
After two albums, an EP and nearly ten years you have to think that most people thought they had Justin Vernon, the man behind Bon Iver, figured out. Since 2007, the Wisconsin native has been crafting beautifully folk-tinged tracks for your drive down back roads or a cold day spent indoors with the one you love. After spending several months in a wintry cabin recording the project’s debut, “For Emma, Forever ago”, winning Best New Artist and Best New Alternative Album for 2012’s Bon Iver, Bon Iver, it was announced that Vernon and touring members were to go on hiatus for an indefinite amount of time.
In the time that followed, Bon Iver garnered a status, along with such artists as Fleet Foxes and Mumford and Sons, to be part of the codified sound of new American Folk music: soft, cozy, bearded and ready for the nearest self-righteous coffee house. With his most recent effort however, Vernon does an incredible job of not only distancing himself from these now-obvious hallmarks but creating a fresh sound unlike anything he has released so far as a solo artist.
The album acts as a companion piece to many of the tracks Vernon has worked on in collaboration with mogul-rapper-producer-designer Kanye West such as “Hold my Liquor” and “Lost in the World and Friends”. The 22, A Million album stands in complete difference from any prior folksy releases by the artist in almost all factors besides Vernon’s familiar (now-digitally enhanced) vocals and quirky album title. With a symbolically cryptic cover art and song titles to match, this new album takes cues from modern electronic music in all of its enigmatic, far reaching glory.
This album abounds with production techniques not often seen from the traditionally more stripped down artist such as auto-tune, echoing voices layered on top of one another and even some hip-hop influenced drum beats to name only a few. Many of the tracks come out just as beautiful as they are confounding, sending listeners back to the past upon hearing Vernon’s soothing, harmonious voice only to be rushed forward to an uncertain future when this voice is looped back onto itself and covered with layers of electronic horns and synthesizers to a song’s uncertain end. 22, A million reaches new frontiers and new dimensions never thought possible for the once-folksy Vernon. Tracks I would recommend checking out are “22 (OVER S∞∞N)”, “715-CR𝚺𝚺KS”, and “00000 Million”.