Released: Sept. 30
On his debut, For Emma, Forever Ago, Justin Vernon embodied an archetype—the sad, introspective, bearded artist, decamping to the woods to sing about his feelings. The story was embellished, of course, but the narrative stuck. For his next album as Bon Iver, Vernon pushed outward, in every direction, to create a sprawling, stately, and, above all else, beautiful album. Then, it seemed like he was finished with the Bon Iver project. Vernon—someone who follows his artistic impulses with enough blind rigor to qualify as an auteur—couldn’t make the music any prettier or heartfelt. So, instead, he stopped. He went back to Wisconsin and started a music festival, indulged a few side projects and worked with Kanye West some more. Then he came back with the first Bon Iver album that doesn’t sound like a Bon Iver album.
22, A Million is a record of broken moments. The beauty Vernon can seemingly conjure in his sleep is still there, but now it’s marred, intentionally and artfully. The glitch-ridden results are gasping, disorienting, and, at times, angry. It’s not the Bon Iver album anyone could have predicted. It’s better. —Brendan Klinkenberg