From gentle melodies and smooth piano backdrops to harsh runs and snare drum, i,i by Bon Iver is a roller coaster of an album. i,i is Bon Iver’s first album in three years and it dynamically combines his traditional sound with a new, unique twist. i,i is an off-the-beaten-path album, stepping away from mainstream indie music and going into the rabbit hole that is Bon Iver’s mind.
The album is made up of 13 songs, combining Bon Iver’s signature sound with a new twist. This new sound may be the result of Bon Iver’s relocation to Texas from his regular recording environment for the majority of the creation of i,i.
Each song is so unique that writing about the album as a whole seemed to be an injustice to the diversity and complexity of the individual songs. “Salem” offers a more traditional Bon Iver sound; it features his high pitched and slow, gradual beat combination that is featured throughout his 2013 album For Emma, Forever Ago. In contrast, “Yi” is far out of left field. At only 31 seconds it is a remixed recording of an old phone call between Iver and a friend. “Yi” on its own seems incomplete and random, however, “iMi” ties it into the album by featuring the same radio static sound. Additionally, the radio static reappears in “Holyfields” creating unity among the different songs despite their distinctiveness. This sound effect brings continuity to the album in a creative way.
“We” adds to the diversity of this album, it has a more serious tone and menacing beat, straying away from the traditional airy sound of Bon Iver. “Hey, Ma” and “U (Man Like)” stand out as more mainstream indie songs with both featuring beautiful instrumental components and Bon Iver’s trademark voice. The slow beat of “Marion” combined with the simple background is extremely raw and soothing, contrasting the harsher beats throughout the album as heard in “We”.
“Naeem” is a fantastic display of the eclectic nature of this album, it dynamically combines snare drum and piano along with Bon Iver’s more intense side to create a strikingly emotional, vulnerable song. “Naeem” was written in collaboration with the TU Dance group and Bon Iver had been performing it with them long before the album was officially released. Although the instrumental components of this album stand out, Bon Iver’s voice remains the centre of attention. His wide-ranging vocal talent is displayed in “Faith” where he seamlessly switches between his traditional high pitched tone and a fresh, stronger sound. His familiar tone remains the centre of “Sh’Diah”, this song blends Bon Iver’s smooth voice with brass instruments to create a distinct contrast in sound. Lastly, “RAbi” rounds out this album with gentle, yet existential lyrics and a blend of soft instrumental sounds accompanied by his relaxed singing.
In its entirety, this album is a clear evolution from the Skinny Love era of Bon Iver. i,i is complex in its beats, instrumentation and sound effects resulting in a wholly unique album, perfect for anyone who wants their heartstrings pulled on or a strong dose of indie vibes. The attention to detail and unity among the diverse tracks results in a fascinating album.