Hearing Aide: Bon Iver “22, A Million”

Five years since the release of Bon Iver, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon shares yet another piece of his artwork with our world. This indie folk band’s third album 22, A Million is an experimentally brilliant work whose meaning is difficult to fully comprehend.

While experimenting with the auto-tune and synthetics, Bon Iver explores the world beyond the conventional three-minute song while staying true to himself. Vernon hones his exceptional songwriting abilities throughout the entirety of the album. He revives his style of singing over simplistic piano with his track “00000 Million” just as he did on his 2007 release For Emma, Forever Ago as well as his self-titled work four years later in 2011.

The interpretation of Bon Iver’s lyrics, which are challenging to decipher is aided by the release of lyric videos to all ten tracks. Each lyrical video is accompanied by symbols that hold personal meaning to individual band members such as the rainbow featured in “33 “GOD””, geometric shapes in “8 (circle)” and countless others. Consistent with Bon Iver’s unique approach to 22, A Million, each song title unconventionally involves language, numbers and symbols to enhance its eccentric nature.

With every new discovery, this cryptic album continues to fascinate the listener. Beginning with “22 (OVER S∞∞N)” and ending with “00000 Million” as they perfectly sandwich the imperfect “22 #Strafford APTS”. The first time listening to this intentionally flawed song I assumed by headphones had been detached from my computer to only later discover that it was an artistic choice of Vernon to record “22 #Strafford APTS” so that it appears to be breaking up near the tail end of the song.

22, A Million is a cohesive work that when listened to in its natural order portrays the progression of its ten tracks. “21 M♢♢N WATER” seems almost indistinguishable as it flows into “8 (circle)” while effortlessly maintaining a similar feel in both songs.

The controversial album that is 22, A Million was successful in reinventing Bon Iver to the extent that he is compared to the works of Kayne West and Frank Ocean. With this album, Bon Iver reaffirms his ability to remain of interest to our scattered millennial generation and the contemporary world.

Key Tracks: 8 (circle), 33 “GOD”, 22 (OVER S∞∞N)