Bon Iver

Album Review: Bon Iver | 22, A Million

It might be over soon. These are the words that we hear most prominently as Justin Vernon, the lead singer and mastermind behind Bon Iver, sets the tone for the record we are about to hear.

22, A Million is an exploration of the relationship between organic and synthetic, natural and man-made, real and fake. Moments of pure musical bliss are contrasted with harsh mixing and distorted vocals. Vernon explores his relationships with everything in his life; despite the instrumental grandeur, 22, A Million is Vernon’s most personal album yet.

33 ‘GOD’ has significance in its title; of course, there’s the word “God”, but in addition, Jesus was likely 33 years old when he died. When he was young, for God, Vernon says he “would have walked across any thousand lands.” But now, decades later, he comes to an epiphany: I didn’t need you that night / not gonna need you anytime … I better fold my clothes! He’s rejecting religion, and bracing himself for a future without that higher power that he’s always known.

Where you gonna look for confirmation?

And if it’s ever gonna happen

So as I’m standing at the station

It might be over soon

Vernon has been candid about his struggles with fame, and that’s understandable — especially when his every last move is magnified by the independent music community. No doubt the rise of social media and universal connectivity has a lot to do with that, and that’s why all of this organic beauty is intercut with painful songs like “10 d E A T h b R E a s T”, the one bad track on the entire album. The harsh, stuttering, synthetic drums are hard on the ears, but it’s how I imagine Vernon must feel whenever he opens his mouth or hints at new music.

Every once in a while, I call my sister on FaceTime to catch up on how she’s doing back home. We usually end up talking for over an hour. And even though the screen may vary in quality and our voices may distort through the internet connection, the love and warmth is still there. 22, A Million’s best (and most conventional) song, 29 #Strafford APTS, is entirely acoustic up until the final chorus. Vernon’s modulated voice cuts out: he sang with too much volume and passion, but just like with my sister and I, the emotion is still there.