Last night, after five years under the radar, Justin Vernon announced the release date of 22, A Million, his third studio album under the guise of Bon Iver. Prior to a performance of both old and new material at a festival in Wisconsin, Bon Iver released two extended tracks from the upcoming album online. Naturally, the internet has gone bat-shit crazy. Indie-kids and forlorn teens have clamoured for another taste of Vernon’s gorgeous falsetto.
But there’s a new flavour. Worlds away from the stripped-back, acoustic heartbreak of For Emma, Forever Ago, these lushly produced tracks suggest 22, A Million will be Bon Iver’s most radical work yet.
The insane track-listing betrays the experimental sights this record is set on. You might have some trouble sharing these tunes with your granny, relaying titles like ‘715 – CRΣΣKS’ and ‘29 #Strafford APTS’.
The leaked tracks are some of Bon Iver’s most innovative to date, production-wise. Steel-stringed guitar takes a back seat, sometimes vanishing altogether, making way for a new, electronic soundscape. This makes sense considering Bon Iver’s recent revival: collaborative works with production-centric artists like James Blake and Kanye West. On ‘22 (OVER S∞∞N)’, thickly layered auto-tune and modified vocal samples seem a subtle nod to Blake’s ‘I Need A Forest Fire’. Elsewhere, ‘10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⊠ ⊠’, possibly the least Bon Iver track yet, is rich in distorted bass frequencies, with a beat you could be forgiven for thinking was lifted straight from Yeezus.
Sophomore release Bon Iver, Bon Iver gave flesh to For Emma’s bones, colouring the gaps with electric guitar, percussion and orchestral flourish. Why shouldn’t Bon Iver graduate once more, to lush synths, processed beats and artistic auto-tune? Some fans might see the tracks as a betrayal of the rhythmic, guitar-driven sound that so-characterised Bon Iver up until now. But, in reality, Vernon’s sweet falsetto, coupled with exemplary use of the studio, ties this together perfectly. Besides, when the saxophone subtly chimes in on ‘(OVER S∞∞N)’, it’s difficult not to smile.
Bon Iver’s back. And it’s bloody beautiful.
Bon Iver’s third studio album, 22, A Million, is set for release via Jagjaguar on September 30th.