Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bon Iver | For Emma, Forever Ago

Readers beware. This album may send you into a pleasant comatose.

For Emma, Forever Ago is drenched with warmth considering the environment it was constructed in. Bon Iver, the pseudonym that singer-song writer Justin Vernon uses for himself, wrote this album after a double break-up with his long-time girlfriend and his long-time band. He did what any singer-song writer would do - he trekked up alone to his father’s hunting cabin in the Middle Of Nowhere, Wisconsin for three months to write music. Surely Vernon must have had a copy of Walden in the back pocket of his snow pants. And surely, it must have been a good experience, for he developed the name Bon Iver (a rough French translation for “good winter”) and he composed an album that critics can’t stop blushing about.

For Emma, Forever Ago has scored Justin Vernon reviews in Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, and Paste - all of which are glowing. This neo-soul album is seamless with each song folding right into the next. And although it is only nine tracks long, it is a fulfilling voyeuristic experience.

Vernon introduces the album with the simple acoustic Flume then shortly after heads right into Skinny Love, the stand-out track of the record. The poetic lyrics taunt you to push repeat. “I told you to be patient, I told you to be fine, I told you to be balanced, I told you to be kind…In the morning I'll be with you, But it will be a different "kind" - I'll be holding all the tickets And you'll be owning all the fines.” Vernon balances the record with Blindsided in which his multi – tracked voice is as much an important instrument as his acoustic guitar. The album flows into Creature Fear’s powerful percussions and then surprises you with a touch of horns in For Emma. Vernon ends perfectly with re:Stacks in which it seems he eerily conjures up the spirit of Elliot Smith.

This album consumes your attention and embraces you in a trance that saddens your heart but intrigues your mind. If you’re a Sigur Ros follower or a fan of the vocal harmonies of TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe, then Bon Iver’s falsetto-voice should definitely be on the radar of your iTunes Genius or Pandora account.

As much as I adore this album it is hard to anticipate where Bon Iver’s sound is headed or if the next cabin he takes up hibernation in will lend him as much musical magic and ingenuity. One thing is for sure. For Emma, Forever Ago is not about love as so many listeners are quick to equate it with. It’s about courage – the courage it takes to separate oneself from love and go it alone.

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