The unassuming Bon Iver – aka Eau Claire, Wisconsin’s Justin Vernon – has casually just revolutionised the way people premiere albums.
Over the weekend, he headlined the second ever Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival and played his forthcoming third album in full. Yep, he did it in a headline slot – you know, the ones normally reserved for bands to chuck out hit after hit after Number One after ultimate banger. A bold move, but one probably made somewhat safer by the fact that he runs the Eaux Claires Festival, and was safe in the knowledge that the crowd was full of diehard Bon Iver fans.
Mumford and Sons experimented with something similar last year, debuting their third album ‘Wilder Mind’ at a string of low-key shows in London, New York and Los Angeles. However, these gigs took place in tiny rooms and competition winning fans were made to hand over their smart phones at the door, so the songs couldn’t leak.
No such rules were set in place by Justin Vernon. The entire show was recorded and placed on YouTube by a number of fans, so you can listen to the album to your heart's content – or until it gets taken down. Audience members were notified of each new tracks name via a push notification on their phone via the festival's app, getting rid of that annoying thing where you've got no idea what the track's called when someone plays a new song.
Now, the visuals on the fan-recorded sets might not be up to much, but we highly recommend opening up a new window and letting it thrum away in the background. "Playing it live for the first time, cool idea... maybe?" says Vernon himself after a chuckle, mid-way through the set. Undoubtedly.
Vernon’s most experimental work to date - ambitiously described as 'poly-fi' by his collaborators - it’s a world away from his woodman-sy 2007 debut ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’, but still houses that unmistakable falsetto which will make your soul soar and your eyes damp. Computer bleeps clash with guitar twangs, skittering drum machines and misty melodies for something very lush indeed.
The album itself was teased by a mural on the streets of Eau Claire last week, as well as another one in Brooklyn, which can be seen below, and will be released on September 30.
The ‘22, A Million’ tracklisting is:
1. '22 (OVER S∞∞N)'
2. '10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄'
3. '715 - CR∑∑KS'
4. '33 “GOD”'
5. '29 #Strafford APTS'
6. '666 ʇ'
7. '21 M◊◊N WATER'
8. '8 (circle)'
10. '00000 Million'