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Old 10-21-2008, 05:40 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Bon Iver - For Emma forever ago



Artist: Bon Iver
Album: For Emma, Forever Ago
Label: Jagjaguwar (US); 4AD (UK)
Tracks: 9
Length: 37:19 mins
Release Date: United States February 19, 2008; United Kingdom May 12, 2008

Rating: 10

Until now, seclusion has never been so creative, hunting never so emotional, music so beautiful.

Following the break up of former band DeYarmond Edison, Justin Vernon aka. Bon Iver retired himself to a secluded cabin in northern Wisconsin, with nothing but deer meat, beer, and a guitar. In between his “chores” and he time he set aside to look back on the day and study his thoughts, Vernon found the time to express himself in the only means possible, so far away in the secluded Wisoncin forest, music. Three months later he emerged with “all of his personal trouble, lack of perspective, heartache, longing, love, loss and guilt that had been stock piled over the course of the past six years, suddenly purged into the form of song”. A debut album, that any singer/songwriter/musician would die for, Vernon really captures emotion in the notes that he plays, and the harmonies that he sings.

The album begins with Flume, a song with a deep, other wordly, ethereal echo throughout, enhanced by the electric effects and the rampant winter weather pounding on the walls of the secluded cabin. It opens with Vernons lightly strummed guitar, reverberating. in the open, empty, space of the room, setting the scene for the album. Lump sum, the second track, while different in its opening maintains the same magical feeling. We are treated to a choir of Justin Vernons emphasized by the cathederal like churchly echo around them. The flow of the record continues on into Skinny Love, track three, where we find Vernon, truly confronting his ancient love, emma “I told you to be balanced/ I told you to be kind/Now all your love is wasted/then who the hell was I”. The Wolves(ActI And II), another emtionally charged track passes with Justin singing “What might have been lost don’t bother me” over a true explosion of the drums, quiet in the background. Justin continues on his emotional journey throughout the record until re:Stacks, where at the end of the track we can hear him put down his instrument and leave the room, having finally cleansed himself of the love and guilt, that had been building up inside him for the past 37 minutes and 19 seconds.

Killian O’Connell

Its my first review on here. Second one i have ever written! Go easy!
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Old 10-25-2008, 10:08 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Good review. I am still not fed up with the album and for once a thread that I started originally about Bon Iver got a few members into him. Rarely does that happen with my tastes lol.

It's not as heartfelt but check out Mount Eerie's 'No Flashlight' which has a few similar touches and Pitchfork rubbished it too and that for me is an endorsment
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Old 10-25-2008, 02:41 PM   #3 (permalink)
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thanks! im gonna go look that up

i really need to get over to pitchfork, i find so may haters on the interwebz these days i must see for myself
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Old 11-05-2008, 04:39 PM   #4 (permalink)
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This is a beautiful album.
My favorite of 2008 by far!
Great review!
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Old 03-01-2009, 08:29 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Figured I'd bump this thread rather than create another. For Emma was my top album of 08 (and 07 for that matter, if the re-release police is reading) and I thought someone out there might enjoy a second review. It's a bit longer than the first so bear with me.

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
February 19th, 2008
Jagjaguwar/4AD
Score: 8.8

Everything that happens
Is from now on
This is pouring rain
This is paralyzed


Catharsis. What is bottled up must eventually pour out. How this emotional purging occurs differs with every individual. For some, screaming into a pillow suffices. For others, a good cry will do. And for those whose troubles cannot be remedied by quick fixes, there’s always hibernation.

For Justin Vernon, seemingly endless personal turmoil culminates in 3 months of seclusion in a Northwestern Wisconsin cabin. Don’t be fooled, this is not evasive action. Vernon does not hope to circumvent the issues plaguing him. He seeks to plunge into them headfirst in an attempt to unravel the coils of his past. Lennon had it right: everybody’s got to have a home. Sometimes though, the only way there is isolation. This is Vernon’s excavation. Today is Qumran.

Whatever could it be that has brought me to this loss?

It becomes evident from the dulcet strums ushering the opener ‘Flume’ in that this is no ordinary man-and-a-guitar endeavor; this is an intensely therapeutic journey. Armed with no more than aged instruments and an irresistible falsetto, Bon Iver puts forth 9 of the most haunting ditties to surface in years. Such candor, such unbridled honesty hasn’t been heard in quite some time, nor has it been supported by such enchanting arrangements. Each tale manages to seem foreign and familiar at once. Vernon wails atop deceptively dense arrangements and for 37 brief minutes, listeners lose their notion of time and place. His ruminations reveal themselves one by one with lines such as “I’ve been twisting to the sun I needed to replace” creating their own contexts within our lives. We are immersed in Vernon’s woes; much like he was surrounded by notes lining every inch of his father’s northern retreat. Walls were no longer confines. They’d become portals, snapshots he could observe and deconstruct in retrospect.

Contrary to popular belief, this is not folk. The ambience, the stirring, layered high-pitched vocals, the towering crescendo that closes out ‘The Wolves (Act I and II)’. Imposing a genre on these songs is selling them short. Bon Iver is quite simply art for and from the soul. It wanders but never aimlessly. It’s subdued but remains deliberate throughout. It’s introspective but never intrusive. It’s painfully personal but somehow universal. Unlike with your typical troubadour bearing his heart on his sleeve, much is left to the imagination here. Vernon has laid the groundwork and it is up to the listeners to make sense of the fragments he’s presented us with. Despite the vagueness of his writing, it all hits close to home. So much so that before the chilling ‘Skinny Love’ is over, you’ll be reaching for those impossibly high notes as well, asking yourself “…then who the hell was I?”

I keep throwing it down two-hundred at a time
It’s hard to find it when you knew it


Aurally living the depths of this man’s troubles is no frivolous privilege either. It is profound and resonant. It crawls beneath your skin and tugs at you from the inside. Inner struggle constitutes the overarching theme here, one that manifests itself on both the musical and lyrical planes, one that requires conclusion. The jockeying to reach closure is not lost on the audience either who is privy to the entire process. Tension gradually gains steam, snowballing into some of the most jarring junctures on the record, namely on the middle section of For Emma, Forever Ago which features ‘The Wolves (Act I And II)’, ‘Blindsided’, and ‘Creature Fear’. Where the cabin trip began as serene, hazy dirges, the tone shifts noticeably when the core group arrives. ‘Flume’ and ‘Lump Sum’ are the introductory pieces, a presentation of the facts. Vernon has yet to tackle his ailments, he simply bares his past and details the events leading to this necessary foray into solitude.

A track such as ‘Creature Fear’ provides a stark contrast, eschewing observation in favor of action. As the most dynamic of the nine pieces, it possesses the wherewithal to encompass a conflict from the initial confrontation to resolution. This is certainly a daunting task yet Bon Iver is equipped with such a fine sense of melody that the number never loses its palatability while achieving its mission statement. A brief pause before the second chorus prefaces one of the crucial moments as our rundown protagonist finally decides to take a stand. “Don’t let it form us/the creature fear/So did he foil ‘is own?/Is he ready to reform?” This rallying cry is bolstered by cascading percussion as the song deftly transitions from hushed to husky, capturing a man coming to terms with his predicament and vowing to alter it. This sentiment’s loose ends are then tied up in the solemn closer ‘re: stacks’, where we meet Vernon again, this time on the other side of the tunnel after the weight on his shoulders has dissipated. Hope blossoms, flickering behind the falsetto’s silhouette. Resolve prevails.

This is not a case of an artist intending to play this way, this is him needing to do so. These oddly infectious numbers beg to be played repeatedly. Harrowing tales of life and loss are drilled into our consciousness, lingering for that additional second the average record would not. Such an accomplished debut is rare in this business. Do For Emma, Forever Ago justice and listen to it over and over. Let Vernon’s life echo yours. Escape into that bubble of solitary reverence if only for half an hour…and then once more.

This is not the sound of a new man or crispy realization
It’s the sound of the unlocking and the lift away
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Old 03-03-2009, 07:39 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I heard a review and some samples of this on MPR and I was like whoa.
I'm gonna download this shit first thing afterschool tomorrow and this review is pumpin me up for it.
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Old 04-01-2009, 05:18 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Well I was almost hoping there wasn't a thread for this yet. I just copped this **** and I don't see a future where I turn it off quite yet. Everyone that hasn't heard it, it's dope, get it. When I say dope, I mean DOOOOPE. Like they're gonna have to dig tunnels to smuggle all this dope.
Now that I've beat a bad pun to death, back to work.
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Old 04-01-2009, 08:48 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I bought this recently and I now love it...thanks again jackhammer.
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Old 04-03-2009, 09:57 AM   #9 (permalink)
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It's a beautiful album.
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Old 04-05-2009, 06:04 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I love this album, so chill
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