It's also definitely not autumn yet.
It's impossible to step into the world of Justin Vernon without surrendering ourselves.
We traverse through each of his works when we are alone, knowing that by the end we'll all have cried, reflected, and been gripped by existential catharsis. Vernon's one-man act, Bon Iver, has historically humbled us with his uncanny ability to tap into the power of nostalgia. I would argue that no Millennial can replay For Emma, Forever Ago (2007) without remembering exactly where they were and how they felt when "Flume" and "For Emma" first hit our ears. The journey since then has been long and meaningful: 22, a Million (2016) proved Vernon to be much more than a folk troubadour with the voice of an angel. He was a magician, able to bend and mold technology in ways no one thought possible, while still keeping his pulse on the same power that makes listeners in 2019 burst into tears whenever "Skinny Love" plays on shuffle.
It's also no secret that his discography is heavily influenced by the seasons. For Emma represented winter, Bon Iver spring, and 22, a Million summer. Despite the grandiosity of this objective, each one's met its goal time and time again. Now with i,i, set to represent autumn, Vernon, in theory, has finished his cycle—except it's not autumn. It's the beginning of August, and we just finished out the hottest month in history. Bon Iver's next album wasn't supposed to come out for another three weeks; but Vernon, for some reason, chose to release it today, while still insisting that it doesn't release "in its entirety" until tomorrow. The roll-out is confusing and feels like a distraction from what is actually a magnificent album.
On i,i, Vernon has refined the glitchy subtexts of 22, a Million, making them more ambient and subdued, mostly to his gain. "iMi" is the best example of this, relying on subtle use of horns and ukulele to pull at our heartstrings, rather than resorting to the sweeping inflations we're used to on songs like "29 #Strafford APTS," "33 'GOD'" and the like. "Hey, Ma" and "Faith" carry the same energy, relying on a "less is more" tactic, much to Vernon's benefit. But the ambiance overwhelms at times: "Sh'Diah" could have benefitted from being an interlude rather than a full track, but i,i represents a pinnacle in the career of Justin Vernon. His music is impeccably toned and seems to have come full circle.
Still, one has to wonder where Vernon will go from here. The cycle has ended, albeit awkwardly, but Bon Iver's foundation has always relied on the changing seasons. With his thematic creations in the rearview, the question remains as to who Bon Iver is without them and what else he has to offer other than these nostalgic lullabies.
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