Bon Iver – 22, A Million
Electronica | Folk | Baroque Pop
In the lead up to Bon Iver’s long awaited third album I was fully under the impression that Justin Vernon had suffered a complete mental breakdown. The song titles are written in the kind of gibberish you’d expect from a demented teenager’s old MSN username and the overuse of the vocoder and other voice effects make the vocals occasionally sound like chipmunks singing into a desk fan. Upon first listen I found little to ease my fears as ’10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄’ and ‘715 – CRΣΣKS’ are wretchedly harsh and uninviting. Thankfully however most of the rest of the album strikes a comfortable balance between innovation and maintaining the band’s classic sound. Some of the sonic experiments are a bit over the top and the album doesn’t carry the bizarre moments with the same grace as their 2011 eponymous release, but if you take time to look past the distractions there is a great album waiting to be discovered underneath.
There are some stunning rhythms and subtle synth work on ‘666 ʇ’, the sax heavy ‘8 (circle)’ is one of the most gorgeous tracks of the year and the piano driven ballad ‘00000 Million’ closes the album in an elegant fashion. 22, A Million seems set to be the most unexpected and divisive album since Radiohead’s Kid A. There’s little doubt that this album will split people into separate camps, seeing it as either genius or madness and each having their own persuasive arguments. There’s no denying that Vernon has created a thoroughly unique sound that is ahead of it’s time. Though he hasn’t made the best album of the year it sounds like the most important and influential album for a very long time. It might be years before we see the full impact of this baffling yet brilliant record.