Justin Vernon is a man of many talents. From appearing on albums with James Blake and Kanye West, to his incredible band Bon Iver. Both of these aspects and experiences seem to pull together to create the Calgary bands finest moment.
The anticipation for this record has been brewing for 5 years now. After constant rumours, in early August the band announced a new album and two new singles which would feature on the album. They also headlined the Eux Clair’s festival courted by Justin Vernon playing the album in full.
22, A Million is an album in which Vernon has experimented to the max. It is a fusion of energy and the passion which is soaked in their first two album, beautiful vocals, intense instrumentals which bind together to create a masterpiece which was certainly expected.
The first track on the album “22 (OVER S∞∞N)”, is the perfect way to open. The perfect harmonies, and the distorted vocals repeating “it might be over soon” send chills down the spine. The soothing saxophone instrumental and Vernon’s memorable vocals feed into one another to create the finest piece on the record.
However, we are only scratching the surface. “10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄” features a monumental and memorable abstract bass throughout. It leaves you wanting more during the duration of the track. Vernon mixes his old sound from his second album “Bon Iver” with the new sound of “22, A Million” to create a breathtaking track. “715 – CRΣΣKS” is a passionate only vocals track, featuring Vernon by himself with his vocals auto tuned , with a melody similar to that of older track “Michicant”.
“33 (GOD)”, the 4th offering on the album is a complex song with different key elements ranging from distorted violins and vocals to the classical, soft voice of Vernon. The song features a sample from Paolo Nutini’ passionate song, “Iron Sky”. “29 #Strafford APTS” and”666 ʇ” continue the passionate vibes that Vernon uses in his writing and vocals. The production on this record is mind-blowing, and is something that can be distinguished on these two tracks.”21 M♢♢N WATER” is another one of those tracks. Using experimental electronic tones, synths and wits the mixture of slowed down vocals sounding like groans and the chimes used with audio reels speed up, Vernon has combined to create a masterpiece of enchanting and hypnotizing music.
The song glides beautifully into “8 (circle)”, possibly the most atmospheric song of the record. Its slow and steady tempo with the stunning vocal pitch, mixing in with yet more synth to create a vivid image of peace and tranquility. “____45_____” is almost blues like, it has that element of surprise in which you aren’t expecting on a Bon Iver track. On closing track “00000 Million” we are given a song which could find in either of the other Bon Iver records. It’s a peaceful offering using pianos and Vernon’s deeply agitated vocals to connect with his audience. The song is almost prayer like, something you’d hear in a church or a choir.
Justin Vernon said that the album should be listened away from others, when you are by yourself, alone with no distractions to be fully immersed in the music. When listening to this album, I get the sense it is trying and succeeding to be the “Kid-A” for Bon Iver. A way to communicate to their growing audience and to reach new barriers and raise the bar higher than they ever thought they could. For me, one of the best albums of the year.