For the longest time, what was called folk was the same ol’ same ol’. No one really tried to reinvent what folk was for a good while, and that was that. With twee and Americana offering new avenues for the genre to take other shapes, it shouldn’t be surprising that Bon Iver has always stood outside of most folk circles while re-imagining what folk music can sound like and where it can go. On their new album i,i they extend that territory into a new space that incorporates multiple genres without isolating themselves into another universe of their own creation. In many ways, i,i represents the best of artistry while still staying within the realm of the world its coming from.
The opening track “Yi” is an opening vignette before “iMi” becomes a great marker for this theory. Far and away from traditional acoustic lead folk, the song incorporates multiple instruments to achieve the goal of possible retelling the tale of what folk music can be. Imaginative and inventive in its approach, the song takes your ears to new places without ever leaving what you think the genre can be in the dust. While the multiple tones and shapes that make up “We” lean closer to R&B, the song has this gospel lead path that is as intriguing as it is entertaining. Bon Iver is reshaping minds and what your ears will allow in the process, yet it’s all magical,
“Hey, Ma” gives you a taste of how diverse the band is willing to go in this quest, “Faith” takes you down a flight of stairs the come out the other side of the planet, and “Salem” is a pop masterpiece cloaked in experimental nuance. These songs are the exploratory side of the album, treading into R&B, electronica and pure soul based pop. But with all of that, the inventive viewpoints and the manipulative tones, we found the most memorable track to be “Naeem.” The song has multiple elements that form together with varying synths and sound clusters that are lead by piano and vocals. The multi-track vocals here that are layered with backing vocals and a falsetto are masterful and the song has the tone of pure emotion that was left raw and untouched. This is Bon Iver in the purest form, probing for something else and finding it in the music while proving that i,i is their most realized work to date.
i,i is available to pre-order physically directly from Jagjaguwar Records before its official release on August 30, it can be purchased digitally wherever you download music and it can be streamed on all streaming sites. Bon Iver is on tour beginning August 31 in Missoula, MT at Kettlehouse Amphitheater until October 19 in Raleigh, NC at PNC Arena. Their tour itinerary can be accessed here.
Image Credits: Photo by Graham Tolbert & Crystal Quinn.