22, A Million: Album Review

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Justin Vernon, otherwise known as Bon Iver, struck the world in the late-2000s with his introspective lyrics and pure vocal cadence. Now, almost a decade since, he has released his third full-length album: 22, A Million. In it, Vernon moves away from the rustic folk we came to know him for, towards the fluttery echo of vocal mechanization and sped-up samples. 22, A Million takes listeners on journey through staggering, electronic noise that is at once turbulent and cohesive. The album defies convention, blatantly moving away from any sort of decipherable form. But listening to 22, A Million is not some sort of aggravating attempt at sticking it to the industry. While it’s true you can’t quite catch the songs, their fleeting nature matches Vernon’s very own interest with the notion of impermanence.

 Throughout the album, Vernon employs autotune and the Messina, an instrument invented by the musician himself and his sound engineer. Each numbered track uses pitch-shifted, vocal distortion, removing the imposition of traditional structure and creating an otherworldly possibility for a sort of enchanting chaos.

 He also uses religious language as an expression of anxiety and uncertainty, sampling two gospel tunes: Mahalia Jackson’s “How I Got Over” and the Supreme Jubilees’s “Standing in the Need of a Prayer”, and even titles some of the tracks in such a vain (i.e.“666 ʇ” and “33 ‘God”). It seems Vernon, and 22, A Million, are undergoing a serious questioning of faith, and they aptly engage listeners in such inquiry.

 While distinct from its predecessors, For Emma, Forever Ago and Bon Iver, 22, A Million remains an authentic bit of Vernon. It is self-aware, pensive and, above all else, endlessly human.

Standout tracks:

  1. “715 – CR∑∑KS”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_Fx1yq3A8M

  1. “33 ‘God’”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6C5sB6AqJkM

  1. “8(Circle)”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPsBFPX_yU4

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