Bon Iver | i,i | Album Review

Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Justin Vernon, known better by his stage name Bon Iver’s new album i,i brings back all of the fall vibes of years past. This time though, Vernon seems to embrace the beautifully nonsensical sounding lyrics he has become known for. Some tracks beg to be understood, but they all beg just to be heard.

All of the familiar Bon Iver elements are scattered throughout the record. Self-harmonizing on “Marion,” semi indecipherable baritone lyrics in “We,” all over top of horns, drums, and acoustic guitar.

The purpose of the album is to draw the focus away from internal, but to external. Nonsense track names set the tone for the tight 40-minute run time, like “iMi,” “Yi,” and “Naeem.” The record is meant to sound beautiful, whether that’s beauty through poetic lyrics or just the way the words sound strung together.

Understandable lyrics aren’t what Bon Iver is known for. The words in previous hits like “Skinny Love” are understandable, but what does it mean? A Google search may be required to sort out their truths, but that truth may not even been discernable throughout i,i. In “Naeem,” Vernon sings “I fall off a bass boat / And the concrete’s very slow.” It doesn’t matter what it means, as the gentle horns and harmonies of the mouth-sounding words create nonsensical bliss.

Not all tracks rely on solely nonsensically pleasant sounds; some lyrical tracks like “Faith” could be pulled from previous albums like For Emma, Forever Ago. Gentle acoustic guitar, an angelic choir, and Vernon’s powerhouse range of vocals invite listeners to venture into his fantastical world.

i,i cannot be properly classified with words, but rather the emotions it stirs. The record itself is not grand, but the way listeners are enveloped into the sound is a feat in and of itself. Each track abandons the search for absolutes and instead celebrates ambiguity.

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