"The spectacular upheaval of life after these albums provoked an inner storm, a mental sickness of anxiety for Justin [Vernon]," writes longtime friend and collaborator Trever Hagen in a letter shortly before the release of Bon Iver's highly anticipated new album, 22, A Million. "Of course it did. The dream had taken on its own life."

Following a wildly successful album like Bon Iver, Bon Iver is an undoubtedly daunting task, but Vernon manages to satisfy the expectations of old fans while breaking new ground. Throughout 22, A Million, he mixes bits and pieces of his signature falsetto vocals into a fearless new direction that pushes the boundaries of his notoriously somber sounds. As he explained in a recent press conference, he was in a creative zone of "making things that are bombastic and exciting and also new, and mashing things together—and explosiveness and shouting more."

Of course, like most of Bon Iver's music, 22, A Million is an emotional listen. The gut reaction is to focus on the context surrounding an album from a high profile artist at a pivotal point of their career, but Hagen encourages listeners to sit back and take in the album for what it is.

"To narrow this album down to the next step within an 'artistic career' would be to miss a far grander purpose of this music—or any music for that matter—and the cultures of friendship that sustain us in our capacities to even play music," Hagen explains. "Although 22, A Million emerges from a swirling context of transformation in Justin's recent life, it is based on how we have always approached what music can be or do." He concludes, "Music, even in its most intimate moments, is a pathway between us all. It is the nuts and bolts of humanity as well as its totality. The answer has been here the entire time: just music, always."

Listen to 22, A Million via Spotify below.