Bon Iver’s new album, 22, A Million, came out last week, and since then, he’s shared a lyric video for every track from the album (adding to ones we had already gotten for the early singles). The art direction for the album was overseen by Brooklyn-via-Minneapolis designer Eric Timothy Carlson, who was interviewed by the Walker Art Center about the ideas surrounding the numerology-obsessed, fractured artwork that’s featured in both the packaging and lyric videos.
The lyric videos in particular were made alongside Aaron Anderson, and came out of a desire to have the album available in full on YouTube to monetize the experience instead of ceding that money to illegal streams. Here’s the relevant portion of the interview:
The lyric videos initiative came from Justin. I’m not sure they ended up looking like what he was imagining, but that’s one of the things that has been so great about the project: the trust in the work of everyone involved.?I was originally a little hesitant about the lyric video concept, largely due to the quality of lyric videos in general, and because I was dreaming of an entirely abstract/ambient visual component to live with the music online, without typography. But many lyric videos found online are made by fans—iMovie/After Effects motion graphics class projects. I feel that that amateur aesthetic has gone on to inform what official, professionally produced lyric videos look like. Those videos are getting a lot of views, so they are probably important to produce and control, but I can’t imagine any of them are allotted budgets comparable to that of a music video—they are more of a checked-off assets category in the end.
But it was good challenge, figuring out how to do it good/weird/right, how to acknowledge the format, and how to expand the album art into this realm. They didn’t need to be explicitly narrative, and they didn’t need to live by the rules of the print material. They are made for YouTube, to ultimately listen to the music in that format—but we wanted to prod at the format, and use it to expand upon the inherent digital truth of the album.
There are a lot of interesting tidbits in the interview, which you can read in full here. Watch a playlist of all the 22, A Million lyric videos below.
22, A Million is out now via Jagjaguwar.