LISTEN TO THIS | 22, A Million by Bon Iver

Living overseas can sometimes disconnect you from the music scene back home. LISTEN TO THIS is your link to all the music you missed from back home and some local gems you may have missed. 

Bon Iver – 22, A Million
★★★★ (out of 5)

Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon is back after taking half a decade off (presumably to live off the land and sell hemp products at a farmer’s market). His third effort entitled 22, A Million came as a bit of a surprise after Vernon announced in 2012 that he was walking away from Bon Iver for “the foreseeable future.” He released the album at his own festival Eaux Claires.

I’ll be honest; I spent years ignoring everything Bon Iver because everything I heard about Justin Vernon annoyed me. He seemed to hate everything about the fame he had and was working so hard to get. That plus the fact that he sat in the woods and made these albums was enough for me not to get into him.  

After a few years, I finally cracked after getting in to some of his side projects (Volcano Choir, Gayngs, The Shouting Matches) and decided to give Bon Iver a listen. His first record For Emma, Forever Ago, Vernon locked himself in a cabin in the woods and wrote a really intimate album that redefined the break up record.

His second album Bon Iver, Bon Iver (sidenote: I hate when artists self title their albums. Just come up with anything else. I’m looking at you Bad Company with the album Bad Company and the hit song Bad Company) he took the same qualities from the first album but took away a lot of the intimacy by making it much bigger and orchestral.

For his third offering, Vernon tries to reinvent his sound again and overall I think it’s for the better. He keeps his quintessential emotional sound while adding an exciting experimental electronic feel to it. Just in case you’ve skipped over this album, The Shanghai Show will walk you through the record and give you our first impressions. DISCLAIMER: Live versions are a bit different than the album. 

22 (OVER S∞∞N)
A sparse, almost angelic start to the album hooked me in right away with that signature Bon Iver sound. An eerie saxophone and the repetition of the line “it might be over soon” in his signature falsetto got me excited for the rest of the album. 

10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⊠ ⊠
A darker tone right off the bat. A muddier, almost uncomfortable arrangement that I really enjoyed.

715 – CRΣΣKS
One of my favorite tracks from the album. It reminded me of that song Hide and Seek by Imogen Heap and his own song Woods from For Emma, Forever Ago. Vernon creates these beautiful, robotic harmonies that really embodies that Bon Iver “atmosphere”. It makes this perfect background music for working or studying.

33 “GOD”
The arrangement of this song made me officially realize why Kanye West calls Vernon, “one of the baddest white boys on the planet.” (Vernon helped West produce My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus)
The song could have easily fit into Yeezus.

29 #Strafford APTS
The rollercoaster continues as Vernon brings us back to a simple, folksy tune. For anyone that isn’t a fan of Vernon experimenting on this album and loved For Emma, Forever Ago this will probably be the song for you.

666 ʇ
This is probably one of the wildest tracks on the album. An excellent mashup of the old and new of Bon Iver. The iconic folksy guitar layered in with some electronic elements. One of the weirder things about this track is how he seemed to use the Facebook “new message” sound in it because I constantly kept looking at my phone during this song.

A mishmash of sounds, this track is hauntingly beautiful. This is everything I love and hate about Bon Iver. I am never invested enough to listen with 100% of my attention but always enough to where I want to know what’s going on.

8 (circle)
At this point, I am slightly bored with this record. This song starts off with almost 2 minutes of instrumentals and when his falsetto kicks in it seems like more of the same.

_ 45 _
I’m back. I love this song. I actually prefer Vernon more when he uses his lower register singing voice. It has a bit of grittiness to it and really breaks up the monotony of his falsetto. A simple song with his voice as the star, this might be my favorite of the album.

00000 Million
A simple, straightforward song that serves as an excellent end to the album. Heavy on the piano that has a similar sound to Beth/Rest from Bon Iver, Bon Iver. This song almost has a gospel sound to it.

Overall Impressions: This album was a great follow up to the first two and not disappointing at all. Is it a masterpiece that changed the genre? Maybe. He definitely challenges the boundaries of various genres. In conclusion, if you liked Bon Iver before, you’ll like this one too. If you didn’t before then…well, go listen to The Shanghai Show! New episodes every Monday!

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