The first time I heard 22, A Million, the long-awaited third album from Bon Iver, I hated it. To my ears, it sounded like a formless mess, devoid of any clear highlights (at least on the level of the best songs from Justin Vernon’s previous albums) and frequently undone by head-scratching production choices. Granted, I was listening to a shitty rip of a shitty stream that had leaked to the internet months in advance. I’d also had my expectations sent through the roof by live recordings of the band’s full playthrough of the record at this year’s Eaux Claires music festival. Even an amateur audience recording of the performance captured the magic of the new songs and made it sound like 22, A Million—despite arriving on five years’ worth of built up anticipation—was going to live up to my every expectation. Hearing the same songs in studio form didn’t hit me the same way, and I spent months considering 22, A Million my biggest disappointment of the year as a result. Even after the album officially released in September and I finally got to hear a full-quality version, I heard it as a distinct step down from its two predecessors.