Every now and again an album is released that completely destroys all the boundaries and has the capacity to touch whoever listens to it on a level that reminds you why you love music so much.
And Bon Iver’s third album 22, A Million is one of those.
I’m not the first writer that has given this album full marks and I’m about to give more praise in a review that is probably the most daunting I’ve written in a long time, because what Justin Vernon has created here surpasses all the possible word combinations of the English language.
In his interview with The Guardian, he recalls more than a year of ‘bad days’, most of which he deals with on 22, A Million. And what he does is more simple than writing a ballad or two, whispering sad line after sad line into the microphone.
The whole album feels like a stream of conscience. Some songs are short and end abruptly and the lyrics are snippets, like thoughts zapping through Vernon’s brain. And while they seem nonsensical they go right through you and sometimes you hear a line and it follows you for hours. It feels like you know somewhere deep down what it means, or what he wanted it to mean to you and only you.
Musically, the album shouldn’t work. There’s brutal electronic shockwaves running through 10 d E A T h b R E A s T, which is followed by 715 – CR∑∑KS, a song that is solely comprised of Vernon’s voice and a vocoder, endlessly and heartbreakingly repeating ‘turn around you’re my A-Team’. The element tying it all together might be the saxophone, strewn throughout 666 and ____45____, or the strings and the piano that give 33 “God” such a heart wrenching power or maybe it’s the disturbingly well incorporated man-made technical glitches and the attention to detail.
What remains from the Bon Iver we’ve gotten to know on the last two albums is not this incredibly American way of suffering through (or maybe by) folk music, it’s the honesty, the tenderness, and the authenticity, that make you feel like you’re part of something profound.
Favourites: 715 – CR∑∑KS, 33 “God”, 29 #Strafford Apts