Justin Vernon has declared that i,i, the fourth LP from Bon Iver, completes a cycle that began with 2007’s For Emma, Forever Ago. While that album represented Winter, 2011’s eponymous follow-up embodied Spring and 22, A Million was a ‘crazy energy Summer record’, Vernon sees i,i as his sonic representation of fall.
This album certainly has an autumnal quality to it. While maintaining the futurist folk ‘n’ B sound that Vernon has made his trademark over the past few years, plenty of i,i feels rather wistful. Tracks like ‘Hey Ma’ are painted in oranges and yellows, their finger-picked guitars and tender vocals coloured by little plumes of electronics. The robo-gospel style that Vernon has been playing with ever since 2009’s Blood Bank EP remains alive and well here too - head straight to ‘U (Man Like)’ if this is the facet of Vernon’s sound that you dig the most.
However, just because the nights are drawing in on i,i doesn’t mean that this is a reserved record. There are some show-stopping moments here, particularly in the moments when Vernon lets his songwriting speak a little more freely. ‘Faith’, for instance, could pass for one of the more anthemic cuts from Bon Iver’s self-titled record. Contributions from a high-profile range of guests - James Blake, Moses Sumney and Bryce Dessner to name but three - give i,i additional clout.
Similar in style to other albums that take electronics to the ballad tradition - Radiohead’s Kid A, Dirty Projectors’ Dirty Projectors - Bon Iver’s i,i is another hugely impressive set of contemporary songcraft from Justin Vernon.