The impact of Bon Iver’s 3rd studio album is powerful for Brinsley Chidavaenzi
Words by Brinsley Chidavaenzi
Jeremiah 33:3 – Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. “Where you gonna look for confirmation?” In Christianity, the act of confirmation is a church service where a person confirms the promises that were made when baptised as a child. A transfer of responsibility, commitment across one’s life to faith. By the end of A Million, Justin Vernon manages to confirm himself as the source of where he wants to transfer that same responsibility and commitment with the phrase “Well it harms, it harms me, it harms, I’ll let it in” on A 00000 Million.
The first time I heard that lyric, it went through me transparently. Upon hearing it after several times the line flicked a switch. Same words. Same recording. Different times in life. Justin Vernon at heart is a soul singer (who is baring the soul) through the vessels of folk and indie, he can morph his voice to a falsetto that channels the Bee Gees in a flick. He can also create a sea of haze and isolation painted with the brush of Autotune making him otherworldly on ‘Woods’. It’s the points of his experimentation with audio technology (autotune, vocoder, Messina) and emotionalist expression that make him so reverent. This is ultimately what resonates with me at the core of his work and shares the same framework as many of my favourite singers have (through Stevie and Roger Troutman with the talk box, Prince through pitch-shifting.) The presence of soul bearing emotions through hymn and song has always resonated to me from childhood due to the places these performances were coming from (from the church to R&B CD’s) Soulfulness is a comfort food for millions of ears, it will continue to keep me at ease for the rest of mine.
22 A Million doesn’t share the geography as the previous 2 records (For Emma, and self-titled). This feels transcendent of the world it is created in and lives in some sort of alternate world of contemplation. Trevor Hagen sums up with elegance on the transcendence aspect: “If Bon lver, Bon lver built a habitat rooted in physical spaces, then 22, A Million is the letting go of that attachment to a place. I’m taking deeper consideration in another kind of place – our friendships and connections to other people.” 22’s timeless in the subject matter due to memory searching and anxiety being commonplace in the human condition since forever and will continue to be. 22 works through these with the transgression of not that it will be okay but acceptance is a powerful starting point. And that’s a lesson for the 00000 Million of us to listen to. That’s what this album means to me.