Bon Iver
For Emma, Forever Ago


4.0
excellent

Review

by Lewis P. STAFF
May 17th, 2008 | 1987 replies | 110,095 views


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: With bolder steps, Bon Iver could become a voice for our generation worth getting excited over. For Emma, Forever Ago already is.

When Justin Vernon’s previous band broke up and six years of despair came crashing down on him, he fled to “hibernate” in a cabin in Wisconsin. For three months he was cooped up, taking those six years and turning them into song. This story has been told many a time to explain where exactly Bon Iver (butchered French for “good winter”) and For Emma, Forever Ago came from, and the tale has long since lost that luster of romanticism that preceded even the album itself. That’s not to say that Vernon’s plight should lose any of its meaning, and the album he has created is nothing short of breathtaking and personal. But the story only frays the edges now for an album that can very well explain itself, and it’s in this way that Bon Iver has achieved a magnificent feat: For Emma, Forever Ago is a heartbreaking and heartwarming album that ventures deeper than the story of its origins could possibly entail.

To be fair, Bon Iver does his best to capture the cold isolation of the recording’s locale. Each song, drenched in layers, are puffs of breath in the cold air, and it only helps to construct the fragile atmosphere that For Emma holds. Most importantly, it illustrates the intricacies of Vernon’s voice, which swims in higher octaves, pulling back or showing cracks in brief spurts that accentuate and bring vulnerability to the title. “Flume” is a jumbled mess of Vernon’s intimate mumble, drawing the title lyric out in a rough, compacted moan, while “Skinny Love” jolts wildly in pitch, while his layered vocals mingle amongst the rolling guitars and low drum thump. “And I told you to patient / and I told you to fine / and I told you to be balanced / and I told you to kind” become little yelps in Vernon’s care, turning the lyric into cry of desperation. In “The Wolves (Act and II),” he’s accompanied sparingly by a computerized laye, before the song becomes an instrumental clash.

As an album, For Emma is consistent in a certain texture; the cold separation of vocals and instruments is noticeable, and had Vernon varied the production by bringing his voice in with a warmer tone, For Emma could branch out more than it does. Even so, the songs are pure examples of catch and release, like the bass-heavy, sonic boom of the understated “Lump Sun,” which keeps the production from fully engulfing the instruments by making the melody quick and fluent. The simple acoustics of “The Wolves (Act and II)” bypass repetition by smartly heaving the bulk of the song onto Vernon’s voice. The intertwining bass-drum note in “Blindsided” gives the song a suspenseful rising towards a climax, which come in waves as the five-minute track plays out.

As short as it is, For Emma’s first side still outweighs the second as individual songs, frontloading the album with the most immediately striking tunes. It helps then that the album feels as short as it does at a brisk nine tracks and 37 minutes, but the second half works mostly as an uninterrupted segment. With “Creature Fear” and “Team,” the tracks move so swiftly and elegantly that the transition between the two is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it smooth. The former begins on a chorus, sending the melancholy of For Emma into a more spiritual and uplifting passage, and the track follows it with the innocent twang of Vernon’s guitar. The latter trudges along its bass line, complemented by the quiet chorus lurking underneath the marching of drums. As the album comes to a close in “Re: Stacks,” Bon Iver completes the album on its most saddening and heartbreaking statement, a drunken lullaby untouched by anything but Vernon’s languished performance and guitar. “I keep throwing it down, two-hundred at a time,” Vernon states early, finishing in a moment of self-clarity, “it’s hard to find when you knew it / when your money’s gone and you’re drunk as hell.”

But it’s the album’s closing statement that rings true and captures the meaning to For Emma: “This is not the sound of a new man or crispy realization / it’s the sound of the unlocking and the lift away.” Following the him-and-her conversation in “For Emma” (where Vernon concedes: “With all your lies / you’re still very loveable”), “Re: Stacks” becomes more downtrodden and isolated, just as it should be. Vernon did not find redemption in his snowy cabin, just solace from his problems, replicated here through the unbroken silence left to dangle on the end of the album. After such a strong finish, it’s hard to imagine where Bon Iver could possibly go from here, but with bolder steps, Bon Iver could become a voice for our generation worth getting excited over. For Emma already is.



Recent reviews by this author
Jenny Hval VisceraYALL Drink From Between Our Hair
Deerhunter Halcyon DigestWavves King of the Beach
Circulatory System Signal MorningAnimal Collective Here Comes the Indian
user ratings (2413)
Chart.
4.3
superb
other reviews of this album
1 of

Comments:Add a Comment 
plane
Staff Reviewer
March 20th 2008



6073 Comments


lonely little love dogThis Message Edited On 10.25.08

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
March 20th 2008



17914 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

grape slush

plane
Staff Reviewer
March 20th 2008



6073 Comments


yes

radianteclipse
March 20th 2008



397 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Saw him in Cleveland with Black Mountain. Great show. Amazing album.

brandtweathers
March 20th 2008



2009 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

girlfriend is obsessed with this one. sounds iron and wine-ish to me

ColdDamnation
March 20th 2008



159 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

deffinitely Iron & Wine-ish... this is album is made for being comfortablly warm when everywhere around you is blisteringly cold.
if you were driving through the Northerwest Territories in a cush car by yourself...you'd put this on.
or if, like vernon, you're by yourself in a cabin in the woods beside a blazing fire, you'd put this on; hopefully on vinyl, since its absolutely the perfect texture for vinyl.

all in all Skinny Love is a classic, and Creature Fear is brilliant.
The rest are just iceing on the cake and fit together like family.

ColdDamnation
March 20th 2008



159 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I ardently hope that he'll become an active composer

joshuatree
Emeritus
March 20th 2008



3743 Comments


anyone who gives this less than a 4.5 is gay

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
March 20th 2008



17914 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

did you hear that lewis

Two-Headed Boy
March 20th 2008



4527 Comments


This album is awesome.

barbarian
March 20th 2008



341 Comments


i think this is maybe 3.5 material so i guess i'm out of the closet full fledged queer. i'm waving my rainbow flag, baby. yeah!

ColdDamnation
March 20th 2008



159 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

still, 3.5 means you're saying this is, "Great" material...which it is.
so maybe you just have some homo thoughts every now and then.

joshuatree
Emeritus
March 20th 2008



3743 Comments


check one two

Altmer
March 21st 2008



5652 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

thats right mate

JAD
March 21st 2008



200 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I don't like it as much as some, but yeah good stuff.

incubus62086
March 23rd 2008



147 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this album is amazing. your review convinced me to torrent it. reminds me a bit of Ben Harper more than Iron and Wine, with that hint of gospel in songs like Skinny Love

gilescorey
March 24th 2008



23 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I think it's similar to I+W only in the sense that it's a very quiet, personal acoustic record that sounds like it's being recorded in a shack somewhere in the American Northwest.

This is really great, though. Certainly going into heavy Quiet Time rotation.

gilescorey
March 24th 2008



23 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Also, is it just me, or does this guy sound exactly like the singer of TV On The Radio? I actually thought it was him, but turns out he's too white.

plane
Staff Reviewer
March 26th 2008



6073 Comments


I see the similarity I guess, but I'd never confuse the two.

cbmartinez
March 26th 2008



2525 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

gilescorey, that's funny I think his voice sounds exactly like tv on the radio



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2013 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy