Album Notes - Bon Iver - i,i

Dispatches from the Highlands

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The fourth Bon Iver album is said to conclude a cycle of seasons. From the winter debut, For Emma, Forever Ago, to the spring of the self-titled follow-up, summer's entry as 22, A Million, now fall lands upon us. And if that's the case, the autumn leaves fell early. Originally scheduled to drop August 30th, Justin Vernon released i,i August 9th instead. While the seasonal counterpart regarding each album seems applied very much retroactively, the growth of an evolving band through all its incarnations is legit. Stemming from a largely solo acoustic effort, then its horn-backed successor, next the electronic takeover, here i,i strikes something of a balance, wrapping elements of the previous three albums, particularly the two most recent, into one. Vernon's vocal application follows its own evolutionary path, resulting in the most we've heard Justin's voice. The falsetto remains, its frequency toned down. The electronic manipulation is there, but dialed back. Largely, and fortunately for us listeners, Vernon allows his gorgeous natural vocal register to shine.  

The analogy aligns better in the fact that as Midwesterners can find beauty in each season, Vernon has always offered it in a variety of shades. The heartache beauty of "Skinny Love." The droning beauty of "Holocene." The ethereal beauty of "22 (Over S∞∞N)." On i,i it's harder to pinpoint. Like all Bon Iver records, it's gorgeous, but takes repeated listens to fully blossom. You could say it's a natural conclusion of an evolution. You could also make the case it's the least captivating entry. That's no slight. It's tough competing against a top-notch catalog.

Always elusive, Vernon will now have to respond to the question of where Bon Iver goes from here. As the band has come full circle, winter feels like forever ago.


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