ALBUM REVIEW: Bon Iver's i,i
After the release of Bon Iver’s new album, their website explained, “The… songs...complete a cycle: from the winter of For Emma, Forever Ago came the frenetic spring of Bon Iver, Bon Iver, and the unhinged summer of 22, A Million. Now, fall arrives early with i,i.”
The release of i,i does indeed usher in something early, if not a season, then at least the thirteen new songs that make up Bon Iver’s fourth album. They had planned to release the album in full on August 30th, but on August 8th, much to their fans’ delight, they uploaded all the tracks on the record.
Bon Iver is most notably famous for their songs that provide the perfect backdrop for fall aesthetics plentiful across Tumblr and Instagram. The band, led by Justin Vernon, is known for their fusion of indie, R&B, and electronic sounds that gave us hits like “Skinny Love”. I listened to this album behind a veil of ignorance; I tuned in as if I had never heard of Bon Iver. To be frank, my cynicism had written off the band as another machine churning out ingenuine indie noises.
However, the album i,i does not feel nostalgic, cheesy, or anything remotely close to the bad indie electronica genre. It’s harmonious, and each song seamlessly melds into the next.
The album opens with “Yi”, a discordant, thirty-second audio bite, presumably from a band recording where sounds and crashes were being tested. Briefly, voices are heard. “iMi” follows next, continuing the same audio snippet, slowly building a rhythm and melody off it. For the first seconds, you can anticipate a song coming on. Then, twenty seconds in, a glitchy voice sounds and those static sounds crash back in. There’s a plucking sound, multiple voices begin in harmony, and i,i is off to the races. If you simply let the thirteen tracks run, it could very well seem like one long song, but in the best possible way.
Bon Iver has never been shy on experimenting with fusing technology with their acoustic indie melodies and lyrics, but this album feels like the most fluent and enjoyable in terms of blending the electronic and the folk aspect.
i,i feels like a Sunday afternoon playlist handcrafted for a slow yet productive day. Songs like “Hey, Ma” and “RABi” comfortably carry you along with the rhythm but are still catchy enough to remember after the last note fades. Bon Iver, no matter what genre they experiment with, deliver a sound on i,i that is engaging and beautiful. You’re going to want to have an open schedule before you start listening; once you start this seamless thirteen-track record, you won’t be able to stop.
Notable songs: “Jelmore”, “Hey Ma”, “RABi”, “Holyfields”
Notable lyrics: “But now it comes to mind / We are terrified / So we run and hide / For a verified little peace” (from “RABi”).
i,i is available to stream now on multiple platforms.