22, A Million – In Review

By Bernie Bernhardt on January 6, 2018

Bon Iver, a name strikes a chord in the hearts of fans whenever they hear it. The name a variant on the French phrase “Bon Hiver” means Good winter. Which perfectly encapsulates the feeling this band gives off the finding hope in the middle of a cold winter. This project began when Justin Vernon the lead singer (and the man who put the band together) had just broken up with his previous band, ended his relationship and contracted mono. He retreated back to his hometown and while in the solitude of his family’s cabin he came the ideas for the first songs of their 2007 classic album “For Emma, Forever Ago”. To this day people cherish this album and for good reason, the beautiful sadness in Justin Vernon’s voice is like the sun melting through the ice on a December morning.  The Follow up to “For Emma Forever Ago” was the Grammy-winning album “Bon Iver, Bon Iver” an album that refined the sadness of the first album but gave it a more existential feel. The album the progression in their sound was defiantly notable but that album was realized in 2011. Five years later on the 30th of September 22, A Million was released. A very different album from the bands’ previous releases which includes samples and electronic elements. While this album departs from what the band has made before it is by no means less touching or heartfelt. Its been over a year since the album’s release so I decided to try and dissect one of my favorite albums of all time.


22 (OVER S∞∞N)

The haunting opening to the album with the words It might be over soon ringing with the falsetto we had missed for so many years. This song deals with Justin’s insecurities and doubts that persist even though he has become successful in achieving his original goal. It also deals with his experiences through the years performing and traveling trying to find himself.


10 d E A T h b R E a s T⚄ ⚄

The second track shows Justin fighting to love someone. It’s about fears and struggles in a relationship and overcoming them. A heavy jarring electronic beat opens up this song to convey the ferocity of this relationship. A powerful song that shows you this record is willing to be very different from anything you’ve heard from Bon Iver in the past.


715 – CRΣΣKS

The heavily layered purely signing track, a soulful ballad with the feeling of being abandoned in a state of despair whether it be in religious or in a romantic sense. The theme of biblical imagery is brought back In certain lines of this song most notably the story of Moses with the line “…Honey understand that I’ve been left here in the reeds…”


33 “GOD”

Playful piano track that plays into the religious aspects of the album. This song is an amalgamation of love and abandonment. The sampled drums sound so tight and the subtle uplifting banjo make for an intense listen.


29 #Strafford APTS

This song most resembles Bon Iver songs from the past, It’s one of the only songs on 22 with the guitar being one of the most present instruments in the mix. This song is about being lost and having conflict ideas and emotions about someone who they hold dear. The chorus rings out like a long forgotten memory “a womb an empty robe enough you’re holding it your fabric now”


666 ʇ

This song is a confrontation of sorts with the evils in Vernon’s life that are represented in the number 666. It’s about becoming more comfortable with your self and overall honestly confronting your problems and fixing them.



“And we definitely said to…” the opening line to this track interestingly played in reverse and only in the left ear. Moon water is a sort of substance used in rituals and potions in pagan culture. This creates a juxtaposition of the rational and the superstitious could indicate Vernon’s fusion of the two ideas. In positioning a symbol of the occult next to talk of mathematics and numbers, Vernon is seemingly contrasting two very different and contradictory ideas.


8 (circle)

This track is about getting lost or going in circles within your own head. There is always an uncertainty to a degree in our lives and you can’t stop everything from happening. That’s really what this song is about wishing things were different than they are and eventually accepting them


_ _ _ 45 _ _ _ 

Another song with parallel lyrics and sound. 45 is about a panic attack that Justin Vernon had while alone in Greece. It’s about being alone when you’re in a time of need and facing a terrifying situation that seems to never end. “I’ve been carved in fired, I stayed down the other night” The horns in this song have these incredible filter on them


00000 Million

Overall this album is about personal strife and trying to overcome it no matter what. This song seems to undercut tone of the main themes of the album by sampling Fionn Regans song “Abacus” with the lyric “where the days have no numbers”.

This song wraps up the album in a beautiful way that feels like an appropriate conclusion. While this album isn’t like Vernon’s previous work it doesn’t try to be, it embodies natural progression one of the main themes of the album. The final line is it “harms me, I’ll let it in” there is something melancholy and yet uplifting about this being the conclusion.