Released an unexpected 22 days before its original release date, Bon Iver’s new album “i,i” showcases the indie folk band’s musical depth with a complex orchestral accompaniment and soul-reaching lyrics.
The band, formed by Wisconsin singer-songwriter Justin Vernon, rose to fame following the release of its first album “For Emma, Forever Ago” in 2007. Critics at the time praised Vernon’s raw vocal talent, creativity and collaboration, which can also be found in “i,i.”
The 39-minute album blends each of the 13 tracks together effortlessly — especially the 31-second first song “Yi” and the following “iMi”— and each song seeks to rediscover meaning for everyday.
Synthesized chords and static crashes introduce the album’s second track “iMi,” the bright and brassy sounds of the song’s second half underscore Bon Iver’s ability to combine electronic and authentic instrumentation. The song also features Vernon’s long-time friend Mike Noyce, whose distorted voice comes through the intro, as well as Camilla Staveley-Taylor and up-and-coming artist Velvet Negroni.
The fifth track, “Hey, Ma,” was released as a single in June and is one of the album’s most nostalgic songs. Much more stripped down from the rest of the album’s accompanying instruments, Vernon’s full voice shines through as he’s accompanied by warm-sounding synthesizers as he sings, “Time to call your Ma.”
“U (Man Like,)” evokes a gospel-inspired sound, and features Grammy Award winning-artist and pianist Bruce Hornsby, as well as Jenn Wasner and Elsa Jensen. The track opens with a melodic piano line which remains a steady constant throughout the entire song. The second verse brings in Hornsby’s own vocals and features the Brooklyn Youth Chorus as the group underscores some of the social issues the track exposes.
The album’s 10th track, “Marion,” leaves Vernon’s voice completely exposed as he sings through the refrain twice and ends the two minute and 22-second song with a brief outro. Free of electronic or synthesized sounds used to characterize many of the other tracks, “Marion” is stripped down to an acoustic guitar, echoing vocals and smooth brass.
“Sh’Diah” and “RABi” close out the album and are much less complex than the names initially imply.
Light as a feather synthesizer accompanies Vernon’s falsetto on “Sh’Diah” in the opening measures, while a bluesy saxophone solo, accompanied by a piano and a light snare carry the rest of the song on its velvety, shimmering notes.
The album ends on a calmer note, and the last song takes its title from Vernon’s softly and soulfully sung lyrics “I could prophet, I could rob, bye bye.” As the song progresses, the sounds of the track get quieter and eventually begin to fade, leaving listeners with the familiar feeling of contentment Bon Iver’s albums usually evoke.