22, A Million
What blackest magic is this? Helium-hogging beardo Justin Vernon’s project-cum-identity has produced a delicious album of gloopy, weird splendour that’s riven with digital distortions to his folky plainsong, and charged with more energy and vitality than the often bloated melancholia of For Emma, Forever Ago and Bon Iver, Bon Iver.
Voices are the central instruments on 22, A Million but rather than labouring on with just his weightless – and sometime tiresome – falsetto, Vernon has employed the full playbook of trick moves: Autotune, voice-box, pitch-shifting, vocoders and samples a plenty: Fionn Regan’s voice pierces up on closer 00000 Million causing a double-take from its familiarity, a Stevie Nicks rehearsal nabbed from YouTube gets repurposed as backing vocal on 10 d E A T H b R e a S T ⊠ ⊠ amongst others.
While the focus is still truly on Vernon and his singular glumness, the arrangements abstract his woe and fashion a landscape far more exciting than the snowbound cabin in Wisconsin could ever provide. And while it’s not exactly Song Cycle, 22, A Million does do a good job of bundling together strands of internet-era Americana into a compendium of digital anxieties through indie-folk that demands to be devoured from start to finish.
Like this? Try these:
Laurie Anderson – Big Science
Van Dyke Parks – Song Cycle
Dirty Projectors – The Glad Fact
Words – Ian Lamont