It’s been five years since Bon Iver’s last self-titled album and Justin Vernon has been busy. Busy with side projects (The Shouting Matches and Volcano Choir), contributing (to Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus) and collaborating (with James Blake), we’ve been left to wonder if we would ever be graced with that soothing falsetto again. Especially when back in 2012 in an interview with The Current he told David Campbell:
Winding it down. I look at it like a faucet. I have to turn it off and walk away from it because so much of how that music comes together is subconscious or discovering. There’s so much attention on the band, it can be distracting at times. I really feel the need to walk away from it while I still care about it. And then if I come back to it – if at all – I’ll feel better about it and be renewed or something to do that.
All the more reason to be concerned. Then he hammered the nail into the coffin last year just before the Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival, (which he manages with The National’s Aaron Dessner) in an interview with Grantland explaining, “We don’t have anything booked after this. We don’t have any plans. We’re not being secretive — we just don’t have any plans.” AKA no known future for Bon Iver.
But then, back in February we had a glimmer of hope. In an interview with Billboard, Vernon expressed insight about the future of Bon Iver:
I’m no longer winding down. I’m not exactly sure where I am with it. I’ve been winding down for a number of years for numerous reasons.
The anticipation began to grow. And grow it did, as teases of new songs being debuted at the 2016 Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival were rumored.
Then finally, on August 13, they performed their third studio album live and released extended versions of two of those tracks: 22 (OVER S∞∞N) [Bob Moose Extended Cab Version] and 10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄ (Extended Version).
Their press release describes 22, A Million as a collection of sacred moments, love’s torment and salvation, contexts of intense memories, signs that you can pin meaning onto or disregard as coincidence.
The track list is wild, just look at these titles:
01 | 22 (OVER S∞∞N)
02 | 10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⊠ ⊠
03 | 715 – CRΣΣKS
04 | 33 “GOD”
05 | 29 #Strafford APTS
06 | 666 ʇ
07 | 21 M♢♢N WATER
08 | 8 (circle)
09 | ____45_____
10 | 00000 Million
But it gets even stranger. While Vernon has done some mild experimenting with auto-tune and varying elements and textures of sounds, nothing compares to the ambitious nature and adventurous reach of 22, A Million. It certainly is no Blood Bank.
Vernon still conveys his sensitivity but in an entirely new light. The newly released lyrical video for 33 ‘GOD’ emphasizes just that.
Said i woulda walked across any
No not really if you can’t
I didn’t need you that night
Not gonna need you anytime
Was gonna take it as it goes
I could go forward in the light
Better fold my clothes
It speaks to me of the duality of love, of compassion, wanting to give your all and yet nothing at all because what for? To love and to lose, to feel longing and heartbreak. The melancholy of love is unavoidable.
The song title itself is referring to the age that Jesus was upon dying. It was also released 33 days prior to the release of 22, A Million and just so happens to be 3:33 in length as well.
22, A Million is out September 30 on Jagjaguwar. You can pre-order it on their website.
Listen to Bon Iver’s complete discography including the three new tracks on Spotify.