On Sept. 30, Bon Iver will release its first album in five years. Titled 22, A Million, it's full of drama, disturbances and thrills. We have two tracks for you here, "22 (OVER S∞∞N)" and "10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄," released only moments after the band performed the new music at Justin Vernon's own Eaux Claires festival in his hometown of Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
This music represents another huge leap in Bon Iver's music. Gone is the Silvertone guitar; in fact, it's often tough to pick out more than a smattering of guitar in these songs. Gone, too, is the steady drum beat, and there's barely a thread of folk music's acoustic intimacy. It's going on 10 years since For Emma, Forever Ago, and in that time, Bon Iver has filled the spaces in its sound with stimulation and surprise, as Vernon's voice is digitized and distorted, sometimes beyond recognition — the effects often obscure the words, at least on first listen. This is "sit down and listen" music. There's nothing casual here, and having spent time with it, I'm loving the sonic rewards.
A press release announcing the new album says that 22, A Million is "part love letter, part final resting place of two decades of searching for self-understanding like a religion. And the inner-resolution of maybe never finding that understanding."
The last Bon Iver record hinted at what we hear in these new songs, both of which feel at once fragile and muscular. In one moment, an old reel of magnetic tape seems to flake and disintegrate, playing for its final spin. Then, everything sounds synthetic, as if Vernon and his band are creating the equivalent of a new element to the periodic table of music. I'm mostly fascinated and sometimes even annoyed — the Chipmunks-style "sped-up" high voices don't work for me — but these tunes radiate care and spontaneity.
I'd love to know how this record was put together. It wouldn't change the way I feel about the music, but I bet it will give me an appreciation and understanding. Those are very different things for me. Hey, Justin, wanna talk?
Bon Iver's new third album, 22, A Million, comes out Sept. 30 via Jagjaguwar. The track listing is below; full album credits can be seen here.
22, A Million Track List:
1. 22 (OVER S∞∞N)
2. 10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄
3. 715 - CR∑∑KS
4. 33 "GOD"
5. 29 #Strafford APTS
6. 666 ʇ
7. 21 M◊◊N WATER
8. 8 (circle)
10. 00000 Million