Bon Iver’s release of “22, A Million” through Jagjaguwar Records on Sept. 30 is his first album in five years and is planned to reach the No. 1 position on the Billboard 200, according to Billboard.
Upon release, fans were puzzled at the new sound implemented by vocalist Justin Vernon. After releasing the single “33 ‘GOD'” months before the album dropped, listeners had to acclimate themselves to the influence of hip–hop and jazz on the new tracks. As a first-time listener of Bon Iver, I was interested in what new sensation this album would bring.
The album begins with a subtle mechanized voice with the track “22 (OVER SOON).” This features the familiar harmonies as a culmination of his self-titled “Bon Iver” and “For Emma, Forever Ago.” It combines indie–folk syncopations with an 80s electronic vibe. As the album progresses, the next memorable track is titled “10 dEAThbREasT.” The intro presents a strong drum and bass pound that feels like you are riding in the “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” car while accompanied by two conga players. “715–CREEKS” is a track that requires no instrumentation and provides the listener with Vernon singing through a voice synthesizer that creates an eerie Daft Punk effect. Long-time fans may be familiar with this arrangement in reference to their 2009 “Blood Bank” EP that featured the similar song “Woods.”
The latter half of the album is comparable to the early style of Bon Iver that includes soft piano and guitar while adding a groovy saxophone as a foundational background.
Sophomore Hannah Reed gave her own review of the album, saying she likes the different sound.
“People don’t like change, but I think change is good for music,” Reed said. “It allows us to grow and experience new things.”
Music websites such as Pitchfork and Consequence of Sound shared their reviews of “22, A Million.” Pitchfork writer Amanda Petrusich said Vernon resists to produce the standard verse-chorus-verse form of typical songwriting and conceptualizes the narrative of each song differently.
“This particular amalgamation is so twitchy and idiosyncratic it feels truly singular,” Petrusich said. “Its searching is bottomless.”
Consequence of Sound writer Philip Cosores said Vernon leaves behind most of the habitual folk style for an electronic one.
“From the silly, cryptic tracklisting to the actual direction of the music — which ditches much of the acoustic guitar strums for glitchy, vocoded wailings — the Bon Iver of 2016 is hardly recognizable to those still swooning when they hear ‘Skinny Love’ at their local Starbucks,” Cosores said in a Sept. 29 review for Consequence of Sound.