Hold onto your high and tight fades you hipster hopefuls, Justin Vernon has returned from the proverbial woods to bestow yet another (seemingly) immaculate album via Bon Iver (or “Bonny Bear,” if you have only a casual predilection), entitled 22, A Million.
This might seem like yet another “surprise” release in a year that has been saturated with irrefutably tiresome “event” music cycle, but in true Vernon fashion, promotion for the new record has been under operation in plain site for months (even years). The first indication is the conception of Vernon’s passion project, Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival - which Vernon co-founded with The National’s Aaron Dessner. A festival, which was indicated as an annual event in which Vernon would be able to premiere various Bon Iver and non-Bon Iver, related works.
The second indication came more recently, as promotional efforts ramped up with a mysterious YouTube video released on July 22nd featuring the title “#22days” and a tune that we now know as album single “22 (OVER S∞∞N).” Then, in early August, the Bon Iver socials began to tease artwork, and eventually, a “pedestrian” (really just an industry plant) happened upon a street mural featuring similar art to the 22, A Million album cover.
After the under-our-noses vague promotion, we now know the full, ephemerally wonderful scope of Bon Iver and JV’s shenanigans – 22, A Million is due out on September 30th, via long time Bon Iver label, Jagjaguwar. Vernon and co. premiered the entire 10-track record at Eaux Claires, fully realizing the festival’s purpose, and released two singles from the record immediately following the band’s headlining set.
Between the two singles, it's obvious that the Teenage Engineering OP-1 that Vernon had casually mentioned in a handful of interviews to promote Eaux Claire’s inaugural year in 2015 played a far more substantial role in JV and Bon Iver’s creative process for 22, A Million than anyone could have imagined. “22 (OVER S∞∞N)” and “10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⊠ ⊠” both feature every iteration of Bon Iver channeled through OP-1 production styles and effects. Conceivably, Justin Vernon has managed to do the impossible by not only maintaining Bon Iver tenants of musicality, composition, and lyricism, but progressing the entity itself without any repercussions from such growth.
Outside of the two singles, which include the classic lyrical cryptic messaging and phraseology, not much else is known about 22, A Million, and it's likely little else will be revealed until the album’s 9/30 release date. That being said, for the uninitiated that desire to find out more, it should be noted that the number 22 has played an immeasurably substantial role in Vernon’s life, via a press release for the album:
22 stands for Justin Vernon. The number's recurrence in his life has become a meaningful pattern through encounter and recognition. A mile marker, a jersey number, a bill total. The reflection of '2' is his identity bound up in duality: the relationship he has with himself and the relationship he has with the rest of the world. A Million is the rest of that world: the millions of people who we will never know, the infinite and the endless, everything outside one's self that makes you who you are. The other side of Justin's duality is the thing that completes him and what he searches for. 22, A Million is thus part love letter, part final resting place of two decades of searching for self-understanding like a religion. And the inner-resolution of maybe never finding that understanding. When Justin sings, "I'm still standing in the need of prayer" he begs the question of what's worth worshipping, or rather, what is possible to worship. If music is a sacred form of discovering, knowing and being, then Bon Iver's albums are totems to that faith.
Seeing as the album is set to release in early Fall, a 2016 tour announcement seems unlikely, but do not be surprised if Bon Iver hits the road in early 2017, as by that point, 22, A Million will have likely achieved indie-immortality that demands JV and Bon Iver’s presence once more.
Listen to “22 (OVER S∞∞N)” and “10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⊠ ⊠” and see the full tracklist below:
22, A Million
- 22 (OVER S∞∞N)
- 10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⊠ ⊠
- 715 - CRΣΣKS
- 33 “GOD”
- 29 #Strafford APTS
- 666 ʇ
- 21 M♢♢N WATER
- 8 (circle)
- 00000 Million