Bon Iver

22 A Million


Genre: Folk

Style: Electronic, Indie-Pop

Label: Jagjaguwar

Review snippets taken from Amanda Petrusich’s review over at Pitchfork

22, A Million is certainly Bon Iver’s most difficult record; it’s the work of a songwriter who seems to have lost interest in established, easily deciphered forms, a possibility Vernon has been hinting at for nearly all of his career. In 2006, Vernon, then living in North Carolina, was emotionally razed by a perfect storm of shitty turns: his band broke up, his relationship dissolved, he came down with an acute case of mononucleosis. He did what any reasonable person with an eye toward self-care would do: decamp to his family’s hunting cabin in rural Wisconsin, drink a gang of beers, watch endless hours of “Northern Exposure,” and write a batch of lonesome, yearning folk songs on his acoustic guitar. His high, brittle falsetto gave these pieces an otherworldly quality, as if they had blown in on a particularly cold wind.

Beyond its sonic striving, 22, A Million is also a personal record about how to move forward through disorienting times. Vernon occasionally employs religious language to express his anxiety, some explicit (“consecration,” “confirmation”), some more plainly vernacular (“So as I’m standing at the station,” “I could go forward in the light”). He samples two gospel tunes: Mahalia Jackson’s live version of “How I Got Over,” from 1962, and the Supreme Jubilees’s “Standing in the Need of Prayer,” from 1980. There is a song titled “666 ?,” and another titled “33 ‘GOD.’” A bit of marginalia in the album’s liner notes (“Why are you so FAR from saving me?”) is attributed to Psalm 22, though in the King James Bible, that imploration is for help, not salvation (“Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?”). Either way, Psalm 22 opens in medias res: its author is undergoing an urgent crisis of faith. So is Vernon?

But 22, A Million sounds only like itself. There are precedents for all of Vernon’s moves deep in the histories of rock‘n’roll and rhythm and blues and electronic music—and, more immediately, on newer records by West, Frank Ocean, James Blake, Chance the Rapper, Francis and the Lights, and Radiohead. But this particular amalgamation is so twitchy and idiosyncratic it feels truly singular. Its searching is bottomless.