Album Review: Bon Iver – 22, A Million

By Devon Hannan, Features Editor

[Jagjaguwar; 2016]

Rating: 9.5/10

Key Tracks: “10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄,” “33 ‘GOD’,” “29 #Strafford APTS”

Bon Iver has been teasing us with this album for far too long, releasing three captivating singles along the way. With his first full length in five years, Bon Iver’s 22, A Million proves to be his most experimental and electronic album yet. While not completely abandoning his classic ambient sound, Justin Vernon instead takes that sound and amplifies it, creating a colorful explosion, far beyond anything he has ever done before.

“715 – CR∑∑KS” mirrors a track off Bon Iver’s Blood Bank EP, “Woods,” a track that has been sampled countless times by other artists, including Kanye West. 22, A Million itself is packed with samples from artists like Sharon Van Etten, Fionn Regan and Mahalia Jackson, each taken with utmost taste and proper placement.

Exquisite songwriting, carried by even better production, makes this album contain some of the best music 2016 has heard so far (if not the best). “29 #Strafford APTS” showcases intricate violin and a deep bass line alongside an incredibly beautiful, almost stomach churning falsetto in the varying chorus, “I hold the note you wrote and know you’ve buried all your alimony butterflies, some find, some night.” The track “10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄” features booming percussion, leading up to an eruption of horns and synthesizer that you can truly feel, internalized within bodily functions that surpass a typical heartbeat.

While the build within these tracks is absolutely insane, that doesn’t mean 22 A, Million is ever overpowering or too much. It’s very affable to get on board with this album. In fact, combining easy listening with powerful concepts is they key to this album being so outstanding. The sheer demand within each instrument is truly remarkable. On paper, it sounds like a big giant mess, but between that sweet, sweet sax, plucking banjo and synthesized percussion, Justin Vernon compiled an absolute masterpiece, stretching from cover to cover.

Justin Vernon took a risk on 22, A Million. That risk took him from being arguably boring and unchanging to one of the best artists in the game. 20 years from now, 22, A Million is going to be the album that Justin Vernon has to show for his career. It’s not only going to be everybody’s favorite, it’s going to undoubtedly be the best.

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