Wisconsin’s Justin Vernon has left the public waiting for a follow-up to Bon Iver, Bon Iver for five years now. More adventurous, busy and crowded than (debut) For Emma, Forever Ago: it showed new direction and bravery from Bon Iver. Both of us those albums have been met with huge critical acclaim and accolade – the latter went on to win a Grammy Award. Aside from collaborating with James Blake on The Colour In Anything: it has been a fairly quiet one for Justin Vernon.
The announcement of his third album 22, A Million was received with a blend of excitement and befuddlement. New Bon Iver music is a thing to celebrate: there has not been any album (from him) anything less than exceptional and profound. On the other hand – perhaps a creative detour and development too far – its tracklisting seems to be a coded message to The Enemy – the only real explanation behind the ridiculous and impossible-to-remember song titles. Among 22, A Million’s examples are songs called 10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄, 29 #Strafford APTS and ____45_____ – few will envy any D.J. that has to try and pronounce those songs after they get airplay.
33 “GOD”‘s song’s title seems to be a psalm of sorts: “Is the company stalling?/we had what we wanted: your eyes” casts it in a modern, if albeit confusion, time. Preceding that you get gorgeous, old-film-projection piano and a certain gracefulness. Vernon’s voice is as emotive and strong as ever: words like “With no word from the former/I’d be happy as hell, if you stayed for tea” might seem disconnected and foolish in other artists’ hands – here, they sound engrossing and full of tenderness. With the foreman down and “A child ignored”: one wonders what the song references; a snapshot collection of images and ideas – almost like parables and commandments being delivered from the mountaintop (or staircase). The hero finds God and religion: the track’s thunder-beckoning tension mutates into pulsing percussion and Gospel-tinged vocals layers – a huge and unexpected lift that elevates the song to ecumenical levels.
33 “GOD” is a trippy, majestic and mysterious song that shows Bon Iver is not only capable of producing songs of the highest order – few will be able to compare his latest track with anything that appeared on For Emma, Forever Ago. Such is the leap and difference we find: yet, it seems a natural development and, taken on its own merit, a stunning song. Factor out the Byzantine song titles and pretentiousness and what you have is Justin Vernon doing what he does best. 22, A Million is out on September 20th via Jagiaguwar and, if 33 “GOD” is any indication, it is going to be another award-worthy and spectacular album from Bon Iver