The September 30th release of Bon Iver’s “22, A Million” provides the best of Justin Vernon’s originality and progression, establishing itself as the one of the most unique sounding albums of 2016. The combination of Justin Vernon’s poetic lyricism and the wide variety of instruments reshape our idea of what a melody can sound like and how beautifully bewitching a composition can be.
Throughout the album, Vernon tells stories about love and loss, but his focus remains on conveying the emotion of the story that he is telling as opposed to focusing on the details of his own personal experience. This, then, makes it relatable to the listener, creating a sense of a connection between song and listener, which ultimately makes the song more enjoyable for some.
The album opens with a melancholy yet uplifting, "22 (OVER SOON)." Vernon introduces the theme of confirmation in the song’s opening verse, which is his lacking any major guiding force. The line, “It might be over soon”, carries throughout the duration of the song, expressing both the good and bad of “it” being over soon. Here, the listener can substitute something more personal to them for “it.”
"10dEAThbREasT," is an extraordinary track that gives a contemporary R&B, all sub-bass menace and soul falsetto sound that will entrance listeners for the entire time. Some of this album is audacious and borderline brilliant. For example, a very modern a cappella, “715-CREEKS”, is just Vernon’s singing, but is then heavily processed. With the songs trembling effects, this track achieves more fragility than he perhaps may have intended.
The beautiful “29 #Strafford APTS” can be seen by anyone as a folk song, however Vernon, of course, adds his own creativity and originality to it. He includes altered vocals, pitched saxophones, and distorted electronic tones that ultimately provide the drama to the song. He incorporates a similar sound to the ending track “00000 Million,” turning the typical sad Bon Iver song into something weird and oddly satisfying, creating a more affective composition.
“22, A Million,” is a full arrangement of strange vocals and sounds, which ultimately make it possible to transport the listener. One moment you can be in your room, and the next you can be in an open landscape, the sound of the stream making its way across a rough rocks accompanied by Vernon’s soft vocals wrapping around you.
This album has been eagerly awaited for almost five years, and what Bon Iver gave to the fans was truly a masterpiece. The album is a musical treasure full of meaningful songs that are able to carry the listener to a new world. Justin Vernon stands alone as an artist who simply bleeds with originality when it comes to his compositions.