“I,I” by Bon Iver
By Madeleine Ware
Indie singer-songwriter Justin Vernon, with help from musicians S. Carey, Matthew McCaughan, and others, just released his fourth studio album in August, and it’s a culmination of Bon Iver’s captivating, nostalgic sound. The album begins with “Yi”, a bombardment of disembodied noise that erupts into “iMi”, an eclectic collaboration piece featuring contributions from Camilla Staveley-Taylor, whose vocals float etherally in the mix chanting “I am, I am, I am,” and artistic talent James Blake.
The album manages a perfect balance between previous albums such as the folksy and intimate “For Emma, Forever Ago” and the chaotic sound of “22, A Million.” Vernon incorporates chiming synths and heavily edited vocoder vocals while giving listeners moments of acoustic guitar combined with hushed saxophone. A few stand-outs that exemplify this effect are “Sh’Diah” and “Salem,” back-to-back tracks that mesmerize listeners with a blend of both elements.
The album’s most paradigmatic track is “Hey, Ma,” a track that beautifully conveys the feeling of having nowhere to turn. Vernon reminds listeners that if they are feeling helpless, it may be “tall time to call your ma.” However, the song isn’t all warm sentiment and nostalgia. Mechanical beeps throughout the track create an isolated and aimless feel, as the song swells in intensity and emotion. As usual, Vernon perfectly captures the feeling of a soft winterscape: beautiful and comforting, yet bitingly cold.
Bon Iver’s “i,i” is new and refreshing, but sticks to its folk-indie roots. Vernon gives listeners a reason to pause and just be.