Bon Iver
For Emma, Forever Ago


5.0
classic

Review

by Adam Knott EMERITUS
June 2nd, 2009 | 162 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: It's really just a matter of how long it takes to be perfect.

Where do you go when you feel lonely or let down? When I was seventeen and my family and I were on holiday, the heat and sangria turned into irritation and an hour-long fight between my father and my brother. I took solace in the coolness of a ceiling fan for about fifteen minutes before I decided to slip out the window; I left a note so my parents didn't worry and walked down through town, along silent Menorcan streets, and stood on the beach on my own in the wind. It wasn't too dark but there was nobody around: just me, a narrow beach, and cliffs on three sides of the world. I think that's the night I fell in love with music properly, because I still have a soft spot for the Editors album that gave me something to immerse myself in. But I know now that there is only one album I would ever play in that situation.

I would guess it has something to do with Justin Vernon's own solitude when he recorded For Emma, Forever Ago in an isolated cabin during the aftermath of a painful break-up, but that's not enough on its own to explain its importance. Over an acoustic guitar, minimal percussion and the most humble of backing instruments, tracks like Skinny Love demonstrate pop sensibility, but it will never hit mainstream radio because its most crucial line is too hard-hitting to sit through without being affected. Who will love you? Who will fight? It's one of the more comprehensible lyrics here, but it's definitely not the only one packed full of emotion; Vernon's falsetto vocals quiver and glide through imagery and metaphor and then every now and again he hits you with a sucker-punch of the blunt or the heartfelt like, Your love will be / Safe with me, the very last thing the record has to say.

While nothing is off-the-wall, it would be unfair to say there is any lack of variation here: Blindsided is crooned over a wall of the softest sound, and provides a mid-album drop in momentum but never in tension or quality; near-title-track For Emma is euphoric with its horns and more upbeat rhythm, although it's all relative and it's a collection of songs which never ventures any further than indie-folk with gentle production, frosty songwriting and down-tempo execution. In and of itself, though, it is effortless and 37 minutes slide by; it gets you lost in it. You could probably listen to it in the background if you wanted, but that would be a crime, and the likelihood is that it would command your full attention after just the first four bars of Flume.

It's been said that this record would be best played from the inside of a warm car on a freezing winter's evening. While it's hard to argue with that as an ideal location, Emma has two things going for it. Firstly, it doesn't lose any of its potency in different settings, and secondly, it is genuinely capable of transporting you to that safe place if you allow it to. Sure, it feels cold. There are sounds that echo distant trains and far-off ambience. The opening layered vocal to Lump Sum send one of those warm shivers down your spine that has an unrivalled impact if you're sat on the side of a river in November. But it also brings every other landscape down to a crawl, and provides solace from the crazy world on the other side of the bridge.

That's what For Emma, Forever Ago offers: solace. It honestly does take some time for this record to make its desired impression, but once it's there it can take you back to that fragile and honest place any time you need it to. Some albums exist to pump adrenaline through your veins and some are designed to relax you into slumber. This is both of those whenever you want it to be, but there's no reason it exists - it's pretty much just the most bare and vulnerable recorded document of loss and love.



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user ratings (2500)
Chart.
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Knott-
Emeritus
June 2nd 2009


10198 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

yeah i know this is kind of unnecessary and it might be a bit short but i had it written and figured i might as well post it. feedback & comments appreciated as always

MassiveAttack
June 2nd 2009


2688 Comments


TOTALLY UNNECESSARY IT JUST DISGUSTS ME. Good review buddy. =)

natey
June 2nd 2009


4170 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

your family WAS on holiday, and your second semi-colon would be better as just a colon
don't think the review is too short; it's actually terrific, much like the album

Knott-
Emeritus
June 2nd 2009


10198 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

oh sh*t i meant to say my family and i. thanks for pointing it out, you're right about the colon too, and thanks you (:

Waior
June 2nd 2009


11454 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

God, you're getting good.

Poet
June 2nd 2009


5935 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is not a perfect album, but it's pretty darn tootin close.

Tulannical
June 2nd 2009


2051 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I like this review a lot, nice job.



Mordecai.
June 3rd 2009


8279 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

great review, you described the atmosphere and the impact so well

Transient
June 3rd 2009


1461 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This review is very good.

MassiveAttack
June 3rd 2009


2688 Comments


strikey getting some love.

Waior
June 3rd 2009


11454 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, 'cause he writes good reviews for good music.

MassiveAttack
June 3rd 2009


2688 Comments


Did I say something wrong? =[

Waior
June 3rd 2009


11454 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nahhh, I'm just expanding on what you said.

MassiveAttack
June 3rd 2009


2688 Comments


I almost raged there, whew. lol

STOP SHOUTING!
June 3rd 2009


631 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I find this album affected rather than emotional and the songs just plod along. But good review, as always.

gaslightanthem
June 3rd 2009


5209 Comments


BAD GRAMMAZ BLUEBLAH

gaslightanthem
June 3rd 2009


5209 Comments


not to mention opinion

Fugue
June 3rd 2009


7353 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review man, album is excellent.

Knott-
Emeritus
June 3rd 2009


10198 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

thank you peopleeeee! especially caleb

bluebah you need to listen to it more ;)

kane you rly not heard this or...?

gaslightanthem
June 3rd 2009


5209 Comments


ya this is my favourite album of last year along with shugo tokumaru but i recently requested a ratings wipe



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