Better Late Than Never: 22, A Million by Bon Iver

TL;DR Haiku Review:

“Kanye influenced, it might be the best last year, it’s in the layers”

It might be over soon“:

Released late last year (2016), Bon Iver’s latest album 22, A Million deserves more than a passing listen.  Apparently, the tracks were recorded over a five-year period, which makes the achievement of putting together a combination of songs together that feel like they could have been written during a single moment impressive.

What strikes me about this album is that after a few listens (it is only 34 minutes from end-to-end) is the emotional force the songs have.  Yes, this album has been described as “stripped down” but I would caution against conflating sparse instrumentation with stripping down a song because it gives short shrift to the detailed layers in this album.

Bon Iver AKA Justin Vernon, with clear influence from his work with the great Kanye West, creates grandiose song arrangements by layering vocals, using auto-tune, and other sounds to create emotionally complex results.  (Note: There is a good way to use Auto-Tune despite all of the awful evidence to the contrary.  Kanye’s 808’s and Heartbreak and Bon Iver’s “Lost in the Woods” are prime examples).  Look no further than “22 (OVER SooN),” “8(circle),” or “666” for evidence of the Yeezus influence.  As much as I know some people hate Kanye, I don’t.  I can’t comment on what it’s like to hang out with him, but there is no doubt that he is supremely gifted at creating music.  Kanye’s influence only adds to the growth of Vernon’s music on this album.  If I am being honest, s

And here, Kanye’s influence only adds to the growth of Vernon’s music.  If I am being honest, some of the songs on Bon Iver’s previous albums had to be skipped because they were boring.  That isn’t a problem with 22, A Million.  If anything, this album leaves the listener wanting more.

What I have and haven’t held“:

One of the stand-out tracks on this album deserves its own separate discussion. In my opinion, you will be hard-pressed to find a better song than “8(circle).”  The horn arrangements complement the vocal layers and the simple beat until about three minutes into the song.  As the song progresses, it amplifies and jumps into a fantastic vocal layer bridge before reaching a climax at the end.  It’s a perfect example of how a song should be arranged and how to use vocals as more than just part of a song.  I can’t lie, I am envious and jealous because I could not do this myself.

No that’s not how that’s supposed to feel

I cannot imagine my feelings on this album have been left unclear.  Yes, this is one of the best albums of 2016 (might be my personal favorite) and everyone should try it.  This is no genre-record, so you don’t have to be any kind of specific fan to enjoy this music.  That’s what makes it great, it is unique in sound, but creates a universally relatable emotional appeal.  I’m upset at myself for missing Bon Iver in Northern California recently.

 

 

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