July 11, Bon Iver released two new singles which will be part of his upcoming album, “i,i” — “Faith” and “Jelmore.” Preceding these two new tracks, “Hey Ma” and “U (Man Like)” were released to break Bon Iver’s relative silence over the last couple years.
Bon Iver has provided the world with harmony-ridden, bone chilling songs and albums for over a decade. His debut album, “For Emma, Forever Ago” was a deeply personal piece of art, Bon Iver’s heart on display. The album was written in a cabin somewhere in the woods of Wisconsin as a result of heartbreak and reclusion. Nothing can challenge its organic honesty and pure rawness.
2016’s “22, A Million” revealed a more experimental phase for Bon Iver. It was produced with a heavier hand, using the artist’s voice as a synth and taking on an overall more electronic sound. As opposed to his 2011 self-titled album where he began playing with more electric guitar, “22, A Million” is an avant garde exploration of oneself, not just the introduction of a new instrument.
His new singles, and likely the rest of his upcoming album, are a mix of all that Bon Iver has done before. He uses his voice to carry us, as he always has, yet experiments at his leisure. Of what has been released, it’s clear Bon Iver has taken all he has learned from himself, his past albums and colleagues such as Kanye West to channel a new era of Bon Iver.
Bon Iver’s music is marked by an unmatched falsetto and nearly inaudible lyrics which burrow their way into your head and soul. Bon Iver makes music with convoluted production and audible expended time and effort. The instruments are not there for their own sake, each one is there as a support for the apex instrument — Bon Iver’s voice.
On “Faith,” Bon Iver uses his voice to crescendo and escalate the piece, using auto tuned vocal tracks as a major part of the melody. The opening is largely understated and organic — the guitar is quiet, nearly no drums can be heard. This tranquility is hijacked by vocal intensity and a chorus of pitched-up harmony.
“Jelmore” contains an effect Bon Iver is fond of: a melodic tone which almost seems to be glitching, the effect which defines “22, A Million.” There is a sense of unrest and discomfort that comes with the sound, but juxtaposed by Bon Iver’s soothing and steady voice.
Bon Iver makes a song as a sum of its parts. It’s not about the guitar or the harmony, it’s about how everything comes together, like a jigsaw puzzle. Bon Iver’s voice is the constant and it always has been. He changes the scenery around it, but it’s always there.
I anticipate “i,i” to be the perfect middle ground between “For Emma, Forever Ago” and “22, A Million.” I think Bon Iver is done reinventing himself and instead has fallen into a comfortable stopping place. Everything he produces reflects his state of being and this time around, I think it’s contentment.