Cameron Wittig & Crystal Quinn
Eric Renner Brown
September 29, 2016 AT 04:33 PM EDT

Bon Iver

type
Music
Current Status
In Season
performer
Bon Iver
music label
81893
genre
Indie Rock

We gave it a B

They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but in the case of Bon Iver’s third album, you can. The baffling track list to 22, A Million, with titles like “22 (OVER S∞∞N)” and “00000 Million,” reads like Wingdings gibberish. And the music is similarly obtuse. Mastermind Justin Vernon, whose last album helped him win a Best New Artist Grammy in 2012, has resisted his dude-with-a-beard-and-a-guitar typecast, and he further detonates his strummy aesthetic (best heard on 2007’s “Skinny Love”) here. Banjos and atmospheric drums collide with heaving synths and discordant saxes throughout, sometimes yielding cuts more notable for their experimentation than their pop pleasures, like the ethereal “21 M◊◊N WATER” and the grating “____45_____.” It’s one of the year’s strangest albums, but some of the oddball arrangements work: On “10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⊠ ⊠” Vernon fuses Chipmunk soul with a booming low end to chilling effect. Still, he’s at his strongest when he keeps his outré inclinations in check, whether that’s on the funky “666 ʇ” or the haunting, piano-driven “33 ‘GOD.’ ”

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