Bon Iver’s ‘I, i’ album review: back with the familiar sounds we love

The indie rock band returns with an album that reflects their distinct sound

Chris Gillett |

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Bon Iver fans had a pleasant surprise last month when the group dropped their fourth album I,I a few weeks ahead of schedule. With 2016’s unexpectedly experimental 22, A Million dividing opinion, I,I is a fine balance between lead singer Justin Vernon’s familiar, warm acoustic folk and glitch-ridden electronic wonderings.

From opener iMi, it seems like the record is going to be a continuation of the last, with Kanye-inspired autotune vocal patches over soft, cluttered keyboard surges and harsh scratch sounds; but it quickly develops into the lush mix of brass, strings, and choirs that dominated 2011’s self-titled album.

Naeem is the best example, with warm piano underpinning Vernon’s low, raw holler as he sings: “But I’m climbing down the bastion now/You take me out to pasture now/Well I won’t be angry long.” The female choir grows more prominent as the snare rolls come thundering in for an exhilarating ride of reflection, optimism and melancholy.

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Elsewhere, poignant strings lift the sleepy, subconscious Holyfields, and Jelmore’s clipped, grainy synth pattern is packed full of emotion.

This record feels so cohesive, but diverse, that even the open-tuning acoustic guitar strums of Marion recall Bon Iver’s heart-breaking debut For Emma, Forever Ago, without feeling misplaced.

After a brief misstep, Bon Iver have found their footing again, with a sound that is distinctly their own.