Bon Iver (photo by Cameron Wittig and Crystal Quinn, PR)
22, A Million
Bon Iver's Justin Vernon has returned with the release of his first album in five years, cryptically titled, 22, A Million. This is the third Bon Iver album overall, and it marks a rebirth after a period of dormancy.
With 22, A Million, Vernon and his friends and bandmates have created a work of intense contemplation that hides behind a veil of mystery, slowly revealing itself with each listen. Much of the album is a sonically complex riddle that pulls the listener in and demands closer scrutiny. Songs aside, there's even mystery to the physical presentation of the album itself. There's a use of numbers within all of the song titles, as well as the album’s title, suggesting a possible code or form of numerology. Symbols are also present in some titles, as well as the album’s artwork, reinforcing this notion. Two of the album’s song titles are “666 ʇ” and “21 M♢♢N WATER.”
Flashes of spirituality, love, sorrow, longing, and healing characterize the album’s ten songs, all of which were written by Vernon over the past seven years. Over half of them collaborations too. On 22, A Million, Vernon relies heavily on electronics, synthesized sounds, voice manipulation, pitch variations and distortion to craft a cerebral aura.
“715 – CRΣΣKS” is an a cappella piece featuring heavily auto-tuned vocals. Auto-tuning is also utilized on “____45_____,” but here, it’s the saxophone that is manipulated while the vocal is allowed to remain clean. The prayer-like “33 “GOD”” is built on a potpourri of electronic effects and synthesizers.
“29 #Strafford APTS” is an electronically-treated, acoustic ballad while “10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄” is propelled by distorted tribal drums. “22 (OVER S∞∞N)” utilizes an electronic drone to generate a pulsing bed for the haunting melody. Finally, at the end of the album, we find “00000 Million,” which feels like a futuristic interpretation of a traditional folk song.
Additional vocals on 22, A Million are provided by two members of The Staves, Jessica Staveley-Taylor and Camilla Staveley-Taylor, who appear on “21 M♢♢N WATER." Mike Noyce contributes to “8 (circle),” one of the album’s more straightforward songs.
Vernon dedicates this new album to two of his influences: singer and songwriter Richard Buckner and Bernice Johnson Reagon of Sweet Honey In The Rock.
After the release of Vernon's second album, 2011's Bon Iver, Bon Iver, there were questions about the future of Bon Iver. This new release answers those queries: Bon Iver not only lives on, but thrives via the ethereal, dream-like puzzle of 22, A Million