Bon Iver-22, A Million


The way I see it, Justin Vernon was walking down a Wisconsin road and reach a place where two roads diverged.  He could have created a standard, mostly acoustic follow up to Bon Iver, Bon Iver or he could make a batshit insane electronica album with titles that include symbols for sigma and infinity.  Justin Vernon opted for the latter.

Upon first hearing some of the earliest tracks released, it would be easy to concede that Justin Vernon had lost the essence of what Bon Iver is.  He has simply reimagined what it means to be Bon Iver.  He’s still given us a concept record as solid as For Emma, Forever Ago, just with much less acoustic guitar.  This album sees him exploring mortality, religion and aging, which makes all the distortion, samples and autotune seem all the more fitting.  Bon Iver still has all the warm production, virtuosity and songwriting that make those first two albums such great albums, but he does it with more of a focus on electronics.  Vernon hasn’t abandoned live instruments entirely though.  The saxophone work on “22 (OVER S∞∞N)” and “____45_____” steals the show, creating distorted, glitchy jazz.  “____45_____” also has some sweet banjo at the end.  Original instrumentation and interesting songwriting is definitely not an issue for Justin Vernon.

Bon Iver’s hip hop and R&B collaborations have shown some influence, as this is probably his most soulful record.  Justin Vernon’s signature falsetto still shows on songs like “33 “GOD.””  Unlike his previous work, he sings as if he’s a rapper spitting a sick verse here.  A songs like “8 (circle)” and “00000 Million” have him singing autotuned soul anthems.  It’s very similar to what Kanye West and Chance the Rapper have done with their recent releases.

While there are moments that seem cold and emotionless on this album such as “22 (OVER S∞∞N),” 22, A Million sees Justin Vernon revealing some of his most heart wrenching emotions.  This is most evident during the outro to “715 – CRΣΣKS” where Vernon is practically screaming, “God damn, turn around now.  You were my A-Team.”  “10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄” also sees Vernon vocalizing frustrating during a heavy track.  Most of the album seems to see Vernon trying angrily to make numerical values out of life, but the closing track’s calm piano and refrain of “the days have no numbers” seems to show that he came to grips with an existential dread.  He notes that sometimes you have to let harm in.

22, A Million is definitely controversial for Bon Iver fans.  It’s much more ethereal than what it seems, because it merges all the different worlds that Bon Iver has been involved in.  Had Bon Iver done this as an acoustic guitar folk album, it would have been good, but since he traveled down a new path, it’s incredible.  Two roads diverged in a Wisconsin wood, and Justin Vernon took the path less traveled by, and that has made 22 millions differences.

Beach Slang-‘A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings’

a1153972391_10            I’m not really into Beach Slang.  I’ve really wanted to love them since the Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken? EP, but they never did anything that made me adore them the way it seems the likes of NPR or Pitchfork do.  They have songs here and there that I like, and I understand what James Alex represents.  Still, I feel like more often than not, Beach Slang’s eternally youthful attitude comes off as immature in boring ways.

Beach Slang’s story is a punk Cinderella story.  James Alex is finally getting the recognition he deserves after slaving away in the underground for over two decades.  Alex explored some of those themes on Beach Slang’s first full-length, The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us, on songs like “Too Late to Die Young.”  At the start of A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings, it seems as if Alex has developed Peter Pan-Syndrome.  Based right off the title, it has a refusal to grow up bumper sticker taped to it.  Where Things We Do may have found some power in turning music up loud, songs like “Future Mixtape for the Art Kids” and “Punks in a Disco Bar” feel like clichés.  The opening lines of this album are “Play it loud/play it fast/play me something that will always last,” and it sounds like a song from a fictional band in a children’s cartoon.  The two best tracks on the album’s first half are much less lyrically based and seem to capture the intensity that Beach Slang does best on “Atom Bomb” and “Art Damage.”  The instrumental tracks for these songs aren’t bad, but the lyrical laziness is sometimes cringe-worthy.  If only to add insult to injury, it seems like most of the time James Alex is singing with an underwater distortion effect on his voice.  It’s a shame to see a detriment to an otherwise good singer-songwriter.

Beach Slang do hit a stride in the latter half of this album.  “Wasted Daze of Youth” is a more mature take about death and losing loved ones.  “The Perfect High” and “Young Hearts” are a little bit more restrained, which is a nice breath of fresh-air from the albums abrasive start.  The closer, “Warpaint,” sounds like it’s always on the verge of complete chaos.  Beach Slang don’t give in until just about the very end, but the release isn’t total entropy.  The feeling is much more restrained.  While even this back half seems to ride on some of the youthful clichés typical in Beach Slang songs, it is nice to be a bit more subdued.

Clichés are Beach Slang’s biggest pitfall, and even if you can latch onto the genuine emotions of the band’s anthems, the clichés make it feel like you’re listening to a bad breakup.  The title A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings is perfect for this album, because it sounds the way you would expect such a bash of teenage feelings to sound.  The album feels like watching a teen movie any time you’re not really a teen.  It has an idea of what those teenage feelings are, but it doesn’t execute it nearly as accurately as it thinks it does.  Beach Slang knows that music is a true escapist art, as it lets us reflect on nostalgic times, and to be honest, James Alex’s love of music is incredible.  It’s incredibly uplifting and nostalgic in so many best ways, but he doesn’t realize that it’s the specifics of music that make it so great.  All in all, Beach Slang is okay.

Lady Gaga reveals ‘Joanne’ Tracklist

lady-gaga-joanne-album-cover-insideLady Gaga has released the official and deluxe track listing for Joanne.

1. “Diamond Heart”
2. “A-Yo”
3. “Joanne”
4. “John Wayne”
5. “Dancin’ In Circles”
6. “Perfect Illusion”
7. “Million Reasons”
8. “Sinner’s Prayer”
9. “Come To Mama”
10. “Hey Girl” (Feat. Florence Welch)
11. “Angel Down”
12. “Grigio Girls” (Deluxe Edition Track)
13. “Just Another Day” (Deluxe Edition Track)
14. “Angel Down (Work Tape)” (Deluxe Edition Track)