Bon Iver’s 22 A Million
Words by: Johnny
Folk prodigy Bon Iver stepped out of the woods and into the spotlight with the release of his self-titled album in 2012. His raw and honest approach to songwriting was simple and refreshing. Since then folk artists have tried to re-create his successful sound within the genre over and over but none came to the same. Bon Iver’s most recent project has shattered a genre that he largely created, pushing it more towards a modern sound while still keeping to distinctly folk roots.
Folk music was born out of the agrarian lifestyle. Folk musicians were farmers that had enough time on their hands to play music and were supported enough by their community to continue doing so. Folk captures that down to earth contemplative and nature-driven perspective on life.
As machines entered the agrarian lifestyle, farmer life became less agrarian and more industrial. The progress of population explosions filled small towns with more people and more machines. Bon Iver’s 22, A Million sits perfectly in the middle of three spheres of influence; man, machine, and nature.
His new sound could be best described as industrial folk. The heavy use of distortion, industrial 808 beats, auto tuned voices, all of these elements combine to create a unique synthesis of sound that pushes the boundary of what one might consider folk. The folk lives within the lyrics and soft guitar, but the machinery that invaded the farmer’s life invades the second track off the album pounding us relentlessly. The samples of high and low pitched Bon Iver voices echo around the original after being fed through distortions on a laptop. You can literally piece out the guitar, the violin, the banjo, from the synthesizer and computer looped beats in every song. The industrial complements the authentic in a harmonious way perhaps only the genius of Bon Iver could master.