Our First Impressions Of Bon Iver’s Remarkable New Album ‘22, A Million’
Here are our initial thoughts on one of the year's biggest albums...
NOTE: This is not a review. MTV attended a press event to listen to the new album, and has only heard it once so far. This article comprises of first impressions only.
22, A Million begins and Justin Vernon's gluey vocals, pitched unnaturally higher than its usual register, ring out wailing: “It might be over soon.” With Bon Iver’s third album, that certainly is the case.
Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, 22, A Million might be restrained when it comes to time (not that either of Bon Iver’s two previous albums were overly long), but, like a rabid dog newly released from its chain, 22, A Million is unafraid to bound and chase after something new. In many ways, this album sounds like a new Bon Iver, but it’s not a complete departure from what you’re familiar with.
Of course, if you’ve listened to any of the three songs already released onto the web, you knew that already.
In comparison to the rest of the new material, ‘33 “GOD”’ and ‘22 (OVER S∞∞N)’, with its wailing siren (and gorgeous brass), sound fairly familiar. Though Justin Vernon’s voice is twisted and turned through a vocoder to create crackling effects that will sound new to Bon Iver listeners, they feel just as tender and vulnerable (check the aforementioned opening lyric above) as previous material. Like I said, it’s new Bon Iver, but not a total departure.
‘29 #Strafford APTS’ also features the tweaked vocals, but it sounds gentle, and it even features strings at one point. Elsewhere, ‘666 ʇ’ sounds like relief manifest, but then ‘21 M♢♢N WATER’ hits immediately afterwards. Suddenly things go haywire. Everything you hear sounds like it's breaking apart and splintering, or like a small robot malfunctioning. If you've already listened to the shattered electronic assault of ‘10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄’, this is like that track, but on crack.
If this all seems like it’s a little over the place, don’t worry. (Don't let those bizarre track names put you off either.) 22, A Million is the sound of the one of music’s most creative individuals letting loose. It’s a powerful yet tender album all at once. I wish I could listen to it all over again right now.
The day after I heard 22, A Million for the first time, Dirty Projectors released their first song in four years, ‘Keep Your Name’. It treads similar ground, detailing intimate moments in violently honest fashion, whilst sidestepping the listener with fresh, twisted, pitch-altering sounds. It’s interesting that big-name ‘indie’ (god, I hate that label) artists like these two are treading similar sonic ground. Whilst Bon Iver may haves been in this sonic space for a little while (just check his work with Francis and the Lights), it feels new. It feels like a step forward. 22, A Million is very good. It's out this Friday, and you should listen to it.
Bon Iver's new album, 22, A Million, is out on 30 September.