At the core, music is human connection. It’s intrinsically tied to emotions and experiences. Every song has a story and every lyric is a section of an artist’s psyche. Enter, TrackChanges, where we examine the impact of music on musicians themselves.
Feelds takes on 22, A Million by Bon Iver.
I don’t think there’s ever been a body of music that I’ve anticipated more than 22, A Million (2016). In the five years between its release and Bon Iver’s self-titled second album in 2011, I found myself developing a complete fascination with the way Justin Vernon writes, produces, and basically holds himself up within the music world. He became my idol; and I found myself listening, analysing, pulling apart everything he’d ever been a part of. You may call it a musical obsession, and probably be right.
But it wasn’t just the music that I found myself simmering over for this album. It was the whole damn thing. In the lead up to 22, A Million, it was like Justin and his team at Jagjaguwar knew exactly how much I was ready to experience more. I watched on in anticipation as they fed me hints, symbols, misdirections; and it worked so agonisingly well.
Through these little sparks of information that were slowly oozed through social media, I fell in love with the idea of thinking about what they all meant, what storytelling would come from it, and what ideas it would then evoke for me. My imagination was going wild. Symbolism & patterned colour schemes were popping up everywhere – digital media, physical press, even as murals, painted in different locations across the globe (which would later be used, brilliantly, as part of the release campaign, where people would gather in hundreds to listen to a stream of the album as it was spontaneously released.
The man who worked in synergy with Justin Vernon for this imagery was Brooklyn-based artist, Eric Timothy Carlson. I read that he sat in the studio with Vernon from day dot of recording this album, just scribbling down idea after idea on how he perceived the music being made, and ideally what Justin was expressing as well. These symbols evolved into the shapes splattered across the album and track artwork. In Matt Serif’s blog article, he sums it up perfectly; “I can’t think of a better case study on the importance of synergy between design & music”.
In amongst all this adoration for symbolism and artistry, the musicianship of the album was also like something I hadn’t heard before. It was as though Vernon had been constructing this masterpiece piece by piece over the years, working through every single unique sound, only to then pull them together (or apart) into a finished product of immersion that (to me) explores a reflection on the pursuit of something new, something daunting, but most importantly something sacred & unique.
Clearly, concept and underlying values are held with high admiration & importance to me as a composer & producer, which is why I suppose it has become a big part in shaping my debut album. Little pieces have been dropped in the lead up — notably the imagery and themes surrounding singles ‘Kill The Moon’ & ‘Bloody Mary’ – but I intend to explore and impart this further.