BON IVER – 22, A Million (Jagjaguwar): Serves me right for thinking Justin Vernon couldn’t out-pretentious himself five years after his sophomore self-titled piece of shit, but here we are: ‘song’ titles written in l33k speak and mathematics symbols, more autotune and voice distortion than James Blake could dream of, overproduction that would make Madonna blush. Perhaps one day I’ll be vindicated for calling out this rhythm-immune charlatan for the hack that he is. But I doubt it.
If endless treated samples and purposely chopped-up vocals so heavy on the distortion as to be nearly indecipherable fit your ideal of ‘beautiful’ music, and if you think there’s a segment of the popular music that fits under the umbrella of ‘rock’ that should aspire to postmodern classical, that’s great. But having been a sensitive young white guy at one point—which, and yes I’m judging, it seems Vernon has never grown out of—and having spent too much time with too many of them, I am deeply suspicious of the type: often narcissistic and self-pitying, deliberately trying to find ways to be different as a justification for why they are lonely rather than inherently owning a real and inalienable weirdness.
This all smells like a setup to trick young, hip, progressive millennials into thinking this is what Deep Music is about. Whether there’s any thematic significance to Vernon’s use of mathematical symbols in the song titles is beyond the point—it is by itself so muddled that having to take time to do a personal research project squanders whatever message he’s trying to convey. Dig deep enough into anything sufficiently vague trying to pass itself off as artistic and buddy, believe me, you’ll fucking find it. C