BON IVER! You know, that guy that made a folk album out in the woods and then showed up on a bunch of Kanye tracks? Yeah! That guy is back! Bon Iver, the name multi-instrumentalist Justin Vernon uses for his recorded output, has had an interesting evolution from the release his minimalist debut record, For Emma, Forever Ago, recorded in a cabin somewhere in the Wisconsin wilderness. His self-titled second album, despite a really ambitious array of instrumentation and grander songwriting ambition, fell a bit short of the uniquely ethereal ambience of the debut.
This new project 22, A Million seems to be going out in a different, perhaps more experimental direction from the last. Just look at some of these recently revealed song titles: “___45_____”, “29 #Strafford APTS” and other strange phrases that I can’t even type without going into the special characters and symbols menu on my computer. This track “33 ‘God’”, seems to confirm the theory of a slightly new direction. While the characteristic moodiness and Vernon’s recognizable falsetto remain, the song also sports some glitchy, Bitcrushed percussion and some chipmunky, pitched-up backing vocals (sounds like he’s definitely spent time with Kanye). And while it’s cool to hear Vernon still incorporating new sounds, I’m not sure if I really vibe with what’s going on here. I’ve listened to the track at least a dozen times and I’m still struggling to remember any sort of hook. The overall timbre is memorable but the song not so much.
Even more problematic is the fact that this is supposed to be the single for the album. Given how different this is than past tracks, I can’t hep but wonder if this is indicative of the album as a whole. If this track doesn’t really grab me, what does that say about some of the deeper cuts? Don’t get me wrong, I love it when artists take a more experimental approach to their music, but is the quality of the songwriting going to be compromised by this new direction? Give it a listen and decide for yourself, I guess.
22, A Million comes out on September 30th via Jagjaguwar