It’s going to be a good winter for Bon Iver fans as he has finally released his long awaited 3rd album, 22, A Million, 5 years after his last. However, it is definitely not the same Bon Iver as we’re used to, with endless experimentation with voice changers and different recording effects. Including recording over a mangled up tape recording of the same song on the first track, ‘22 (OVER S∞∞N)’, which is a calm introduction to the new style and the album, setting the bar incredibly high for the remaining tracks.
The second track ‘10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄’steps up the technological raucousness of the new sound, thundering through heavy percussion and aggressive vocals before the third song, ‘715 – CR∑∑KS’. ‘715 – CR∑∑KS’ slows it back down with an acapella vocal line feeling like a mixture of classic Bon Iver and Kanye West’s ‘Only One’, unsurprising given the pair’s friendship and collaborations. The next track, ’33 “GOD”’, is the final of the already released singles and demonstrates both Justin Vernon’s lyrical delicacy, “I’d be happy as hell if you stayed for tea”, and producing abilities with more voice experimentation and integration of Paolo Nutini’s ‘Iron Sky’ briefly.
From here, we’re taken through a much calmer, yet still experimental section, beginning with ‘29 #Strafford APTS’, a beautiful natural song that demonstrates both Vernon’s natural voice and incredible falsetto. Sonically, ‘666 ʇ’ builds throughout and maintains its quality even with extra different sounds such as record scratches. The opening line “sixes hang in the door”, clears the confusion as to whether the numbers in the title are upside down like the t or are simply 6s.
‘21 M◊◊N WATER’ develops the new sound even further with background voices that almost imitate voices in your head as the sounds flow peacefully for 3 minutes until it transitions into ‘8 (circle)’. ‘8 (circle)’ is the longest song on the album in which Vernon soothes the listener with his natural voice as well as harmonies. The opening line “philosophise your figure” opens up the intimacy of the song perfectly.
The penultimate song ‘____45_____’ carries on this intimacy repeating the lines “I been carved in fire” and “I been caught in fire. The song is mostly a duet weaved delicately between Vernon and a vocoder and feels almost like a hymn. The album ends with ‘00000 Million’, which feels like the start of spring with sounds of hope and blossoming whilst also reflecting on the past. The line “the days have no numbers” potentially explains the bizarre song titles.
Overall, despite the huge leap that Bon Iver has taken from his previous albums to ’22, A Million’, it’s a resounding success, demonstrating their versatility and talent. The album spawned from the line “it might be over soon”, but I sincerely hope that Bon Iver will continue to flourish, entertain and inspire. The album is pure, beautiful, genius, from start to finish, from 22 to 00000 Million.
By Will Strickson