UPDATE: Bon Iver’s fourth album i, i is coming out tonight, three weeks earlier than expected. After releasing four singles from the album in the past two months, Bon Iver are sharing the other nine songs, one by one, today.
Later this month, Bon Iver will follow up 2016’s 22, A Million with their fourth album i, i. Justin Vernon’s group has imagined the new LP as a fourth album in a quadrilogy, and the album features contributions from many of the big-name musicians that Vernon has come to know over the years. Up until now, Bon Iver have let us hear four songs from the album, letting them out into the world in two-track chunks — first “Hey, Ma” and “U (Man Like),” and then “Faith” and “Jelmore.”
But this morning, Bon Iver have been uploading lyric videos for as-yet-unheard songs. As as of right now, there are six new Bon Iver songs out in the world. Bon Iver have been posting the tracks on YouTube one by one, and it sure seems likely that he’s sharing the whole album today, one piece at a time. Keep checking this space; we’ll add the new songs as they arrive.
The first of those tracks, “iMi,” is a sort of glitched-out digital hymn, one that comes close to turning Vernon’s voice into sheer abstraction. The song’s co-writers include James Blake (who sings and plays a Prophet 600 synth) and the rap producer Wheezy (who does drum programming). Meanwhile, the National’s Aaron Dessner plays piano, and Velvet Negroni adds vocals.
“We,” is a sort of glassy gospel-blues full of digital effects with a grand, crashing horn breakdown. It has Phil Cook from Megafaun — Justin Vernon’s former bandmate in DeYarmond Edison — on piano.
“Holyfields” sound a bit like Laurie Anderson writing a kids’ folk song; it’s spare and eerie and playful and experimental. Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner adds vocals.
“Naeem” has choral vocals — the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, arranged by the National’s Bryce Dessner, and it’s a warm and emotive and personal piece of work with a couple of huge crescendos built in. Jenn Waser sings on it. (Spank Rock’s Naeem Juwan, who supposedly had something to do with the album, doesn’t appear to have done anything on this song, even if it does seem to be named after him.)
On “Marion,” there aren’t any big-name guests, though it probably bears mentioning that every one of these tracks features a ton of musicians who you might know from liner notes, if you read enough of those. Of the songs that Bon Iver have shared today, “Marion” probably sounds closest to the project’s Wisconsin-cabin roots. It’s a pretty acoustic number, and Vernon really flexes his vocal range all over it.
There also aren’t any big guests on “Salem,” which sadly sounds nothing like witch house. Instead, it’s a grand and assured slow burner, starting out with handclaps and keyboard bloops and building like a swelling wave.
“Sh’Diah” is a horn-driven reverie, co-written with Ryan Olson. (Olson was the leader of Gayngs, the Minneapolis-based supergroup that featured Vernon.)
“RABi” is a spare song, a meditation on memories of times with friends.
i, i is out 8/30 on Jagjaguwar.