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Bon Iver’s highly anticipated third album is out in the world now. Being a fan of Justin Vernon’s unusual music, I was excited about the new release, but then began to hear that the album was super experimental, and a big departure from the band’s previous two albums. I was anticipating a potentially brilliant but inaccessible piece of art. But when my wife and I finally got around to listening to it, I was surprised by how beautiful, intimate, and personal the album felt. The album feels like an archaeological journey, uncovering fragments of history, some of which still have dust on them, but shine beneath.
Rather than give you my thoughts on the album, because honestly I’m still pondering it, I thought I’d share a few pieces that have shaped my perception of 22, A Million.
The first piece, a review by Pitchfork writer Amanda Petrusich, explores how the fragmentary nature of the album’s songs highlight Vernon’s existential search for meaning in the modern age, weaving fragments of memory, cultural artifacts, symbolism, and religious references. In the second piece, a great complement to the first, Daily Beast writer Andrew Kirell looks at how Justin Vernon used the creative process of 22, A Million to come to grips with his sudden rise to fame after the Grammy nominated Bon Iver, Bon Iver.
Two great postscripts to this whole discussion: 1) Nerdwriter’s video essay on How Bon Iver Creates a Mood, and 2) An interview with Eric Timothy Carlson, the artist who designed the album’s unusual artwork.
If you’ve listened to 22, A Million, I’d love to hear your thoughts below.
Chris currently teaches writing and literature to community college students in Massachusetts. He is the author of six books of poetry, and can probably be found reading a book, drinking chai, and wearing flannel. In 2018 he and his wife Jen co-founded The Poetry Pub, an online community for poets. He enjoys walking in the woods, hanging out in coffee shops, and poking around used bookstores.