September 30, 2016 - 5:22 AM
Bon Iver, "22, A Million" (Jagjaguwar)
Some weirdness pervades the release of "22, A Million," the third album by Bon Iver — symbols, images and liner notes that feel like they're fraught with meaning. Some of it might be nonsense.
But then there's the music.
An adventurous journey in sound, "22, A Million" is never dull. Altered voices, the familiar falsetto of Bon Iver's mastermind, Justin Vernon, and acoustic and electronic shape-shifting stretch the conventional boundaries of song.
The album "is part love letter, part final resting place of two decades of searching for self-understanding like a religion," we are told. "If 'Bon Iver, Bon Iver' built a habitat rooted in physical spaces, then '22, A Million' is the letting go of that attachment to a place."
See, that might be nonsense; it's at least self-consciously artsy. So it's tempting to dismiss this as an ultimately meaningless collection of look-at-me life themes for hipsters.
But then you give the music another listen.
There are extraordinary moments of sound on this album, with just enough melody to sustain them. A prime example, a cut called "8(Circle)" — the title itself is a symbol — builds from a heartbeat pulse through vaguely achy lyrics on a tidal swell to a spirited crescendo.
Pretensions notwithstanding, it is beautiful.
Will Bon Iver's growing body of sonic experimentation lose its charm and sound dated, like Moby, when the shine wears off?
We may not know for a while — but it hasn't happened yet.
News from © The Associated Press, 2016