Bon Iver
For Emma, Forever Ago


4.5
superb

Review

by Cam EMERITUS
October 14th, 2007 | 53 replies | 10,567 views


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Soulful, emotional, and beautiful.

I awoke today to the faint smell of wood burning and crisp sunlight shining into my face. I felt the scratchy underbelly of a bear-skin blanket rub against my face like sandpaper, and the room in my cousin’s log cabin in Canada that I was staying in was freezing. No, literally freezing--the guest room in my cousin’s house is one of the few rooms in the tiny house that doesn’t have heat or electricity. Than the soothing sounds of an acoustic guitar forced its way into my head, stimulating what senses were left. My eyes finally fluttered open, and I forced the ice blocks I now had for feet to unthaw as I went downstairs to the living room.

The living room was nothing more than an extremely comfortable leather couch, a hot and burning stone fireplace, two ancient, crackly speakers and a dusty Windows 97 laptop in the corner. My cousin gave me a scalding cup of hot chocolate, which I drank from soothingly. Folk music was quietly playing from the speakers, nothing more than a soft acoustic and crooning, soulful vocals. My cousin and I sat in utter silence, doing nothing but taking an occasional sip from our hot chocolates. The folk music was perfect for the time: there was nothing icier than a metal acoustic guitar, but Bon Iver’s vocals were so soulful and warm that I felt more warmth from them than my hot chocolate. It actually felt as if he had sung these heartfelt folk tunes in the same conditions that my cousin and I were currently fighting against: below-zero outside, sitting next to a fire in a secluded log cabin, which he essentially did. Bon Iver--or Justin Vernon, if we’re going by his actual name here--hibernated to northwestern Wisconsin just before the coming winter just to get away from it all: his long-time band had just broken up, leaving Iver wanted some peace and quiet, and judging by the isolated sounds on his debut, titled For Emma, Forever Ago, it sounds like he got exactly that.

The songs on this intimate and soothing first album are layered and layered of emotion and feeling, yet normally doesn’t consist of any more than a simple acoustic guitar, vocals, and background atmospherics. You feel the loneliness and bitterly cold seclusion that Iver no doubt felt in his stay, and the fact that this feeling resonates so beautifully makes this so much more different than other folk albums released in recent times. This isn’t a completely secluded project however, as “Flume” features flute from Christy Smith from Raleigh’s Nola and “For Emma” features horn work by John DeHaven and Randy Pingrey. Extra help does sort of break the ambient feeling of seclusion, and these two songs are somewhat lacking compared to the rest of the album here. I felt the most freezing emotion in upbeat ballads such as “Skinny Love”, where Iver sings so outwardly and so soulful that you could actually see this song conquering the top 40, and in soft and sometimes ambient tunes such as “Blindsided”.

Hearing this album in my cousin’s icy abode conjured up so much emotion and feeling that by the time the first nine tracks had passed, I thought that my cousin had discovered the next greatest thing. Listening to a burned copy in my car on the way home, however, showed some cracking flaws in Bon Iver’s debut. Sometimes his vocals can be too uplifting and soulful that it doesn’t fit very well with the desolate guitars, making an icy song melt away into sameness. The only non-acoustic track, called “Team”, is also a slight failure, sounding like an Army marching song than a desolate folk tune, and its mix of thumping bass and whistling fails, unfortunately.

But I’m not about to contradict myself and say that this is a poor record, because it is not. It’s a deeply emotional one, and you might have to be in the right mood to fully enjoy its desolated brilliance, but when that moment comes, you’ll be never be happier with what an album gives you. Yes, For Emma, Forever Ago has some flaws. But these flaws make it all the better. So on your next hunting trip, when you hang back in your freezing cabin for some non-existent warmth and rest, you now know exactly what to play on your crackly speakers.



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user ratings (2458)
Chart.
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
joshuatree
Emeritus
October 14th 2007



3743 Comments


Yeah, so this album rules.

Comments, anybody?This Message Edited On 10.14.07

ColdDamnation
November 1st 2007



159 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

fuck yeah this album rules. thank you for reviewing it or I never would have heard of this dude...I read this review and downloaded, "Skinny Love" then entirely forgot about it.
A couple a days later it came on on my library randomly and roughly 30+ seconds into I knew it was a classic favorite of mine, doubtlessly.

I think he sort of ruins Wolves by doing that crazy build towards the end, he deffinitely should have done the, "Runnin' on, Runnin' on..." more than once on Emma Forever Ago, and Blindsided sort of reminds of a Worship song we used to sing at my church forever ago.

besides that though, this is a masterpiece of quiet folkish goodness...

He's also in league with Elvis Perkins (another folk/storyteller artist who released a masterpiece for his debut) and they're playing shows up in the northeast...hopefully they'll share some ideas and rule the world.

Correction
November 1st 2007



188 Comments


Yeah, this album is amazing. Deep, emotional, and beautiful. A favorite.

crazycider
February 28th 2008



105 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good review. Is your cousin related to him? Living in cabins and such.This Message Edited On 02.28.08

ColdDamnation
March 13th 2008



159 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This guy needs to go to Alaska for a season and come back with cd #2.

crazycider
March 14th 2008



105 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I saw Bon Iver in Cleveland a week ago and he's amazing. I was worried about his voice being worse live but it wasn't at all. He was accompanied by a drummer and second guitar player. They did a lot of crazy sounds and noises you don't hear on the album. See him live!!

joshuatree
Emeritus
March 16th 2008



3743 Comments


bump, because more people need to hear this

cbmartinez
March 16th 2008



2525 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Bon Iver rules, I almost saw him open for Black Mountain a couple weeks ago. Good work.

mx
Moderator
March 18th 2008



733 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This is fantastic

amerikraut
July 4th 2008



60 Comments


good review....respectfully disagree about team being slight failure...its actually one of my fav's on the album.

joshuatree
Emeritus
September 15th 2008



3743 Comments


so this is still the best album of the last two years

natey
September 15th 2008



4170 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

hardly

SpinLightTwo
September 15th 2008



1023 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's really, really good, but you have to be in the right mood/setting.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
September 15th 2008



15727 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

no you dont

Digging: A Sunny Day In Glasgow - Sea When Absent

brandtweathers
September 15th 2008



2007 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

well explained opinion and all ec,
but he's right

SpinLightTwo
September 15th 2008



1023 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Eh, you don't have to be in a certain mood to enjoy it, but in the right setting it's a lot more fitting and all.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
September 15th 2008



15727 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I can put this record on anytime and enjoy it. That's why I think it's such a great album. I don't know what the right setting is but each time I put this on it hits me with it's beauty and emotion.

fuck that well explained opinion

natey
September 15th 2008



4170 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's pretty and enjoyable but to me most of it feels airier then emotional. It has its moments though.

rasputin
September 15th 2008



14512 Comments


Who gives a shit what mood you have to be in to listen to it, it's an awesome album.

brandtweathers
September 15th 2008



2007 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

**** that well explained opinion

hahaha
epic



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