Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever Ago

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Bon Iver 

Written By:

Aidan Williamson

25th April 2008
At 14:16 GMT

3 comment(s)

There are two possible outcomes to this scenario, firstly, it's entirely likely you may break from cabin fever and start chanting phrases about 'all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy' whilst looking strangely comfortable with that very large axe.

The second outcome could be you return with an album of enrapturing acoustic-folk compositions which distil all the hurt, lamentatious yearnings, detachment and emptiness into something inherently accessible.


This is what Bon Iver, by day known as Justin Vernon, sentenced himself to when recording "For Emma, Forever Ago". Locked away in a cabin in northwestern Wisconsin for three months with only aged microphones and creaking instruments for company.

Whilst the experience may of been cathartic for Vernon, for the listener, no such outcome is present. There is no storyline to this album, Emma doesn't plague our hero for a short-time before being dispensed with a final song about moving on, nor is the pain she caused our protagonist explained in any tangible way. Instead, raw emotion is whittled down to abstract, yet impactive prose. As he explains himself during the lightly-strummed laid-back rhythm of "re: stacks", "This is not the sound of a new man or crispy realization / It's the sound of the unlocking and the lift away." This journey is one we all must make, one of self-discovery, one of realisation and one without "500 Miles" playing on the radio the entire time.

Considering his solitude, Bon Iver capture an enormous amount of grandiosity in his music. Aiming for more of a band-feel his unrestrained falsetto - which it has been noted sounds akin to TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe - is backed by a spacious arrangement of sweeping guitars, purposeful drumming and an enormously effective flute and horn section in places.

Even when things surge to their most paranoid, like on "The Wolves" and the aforementioned "re: stacks", when he imagines the world itself laughing at him, taunting him in his distress, the accessibility and sheer humanity of his fevered vision is still so stark and relatable.

Surely the best part of isolation, is when we can undergo it together?

"For Emma, Forever Ago' was recorded independently in 2007 and re-released on Jagjaguwar Records in the U.S on February 19, 2008. It will receive a U.K release via 4AD Records on May 12, 2008.

Rating:  9 / 10

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