9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Lumberjack with falsetto" shocks the world...
I was first introduced to Bon Iver's music through a cover of "Skinny Love" that a mate of mine was playing at a gig. Although I didn't catch the whole song, even just a snippet of it was enough to make me want to get into this stuff - I was blown away by the power and depth of the songwriting, as well as the beautifully honest lyrics. And when I came to buying the album,...
Published on 5 Jan. 2009 by Daniel Glover
1.0 out of 5 stars I liked very much this album on CD and always wanted ...
I liked very much this album on CD and always wanted to have in on vinyl. But unfortunately all pressings at Jagjaguwar – JAG115 are made with than awful brushing noise across the all album, especially side B. don't have a clue why they rereleased the disk twice with the same problem. Disappointed.
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Published 5 months ago by Llama
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Lumberjack with falsetto" shocks the world...,
This review is from: For Emma, Forever Ago (MP3 Download)
I was first introduced to Bon Iver's music through a cover of "Skinny Love" that a mate of mine was playing at a gig. Although I didn't catch the whole song, even just a snippet of it was enough to make me want to get into this stuff - I was blown away by the power and depth of the songwriting, as well as the beautifully honest lyrics. And when I came to buying the album, I was far from disappointed - that particular song is still a stand-out, but the rest of the album is just as sublime.
Lyrically, "For Emma, Forever Ago" could be read as one long narrative, brimming with honesty, jealousy, guilt, love, loss, pain and a sense of loneliness which can only have come from the circumstances in which it was recorded - Justin Vernon, the mastermind behind the three-piece (though Vernon regularly plays solo as well), wrote and recorded practically the entire album with aged recording gear and a few microphones during 3 months spent absolutely alone in his father's hunting lodge in the woods of Wisconsin, USA. This time was originally going to be used exclusively for 'soul searching' and recovery from sickness and breakups (from both his band and girlfriend), though luckily for us it seems that the only way he was able to effectively channel his emotions was through songwriting and recording.
Even right from delicate opener "Flume," it is obvious that there has been no holding back in the writing of these songs - though often cryptic, there is no doubt that these lyrics are pure, unspoilt poetry - "Only love is all maroon / Lapping lakes like leery loons / Leaving rope burns - reddish ruse" may not be the most accessible refrain, but that is just not what this record is about. There is no shortage of pain here - "Now all your love is wasted / And who the hell was I?" he laments on "Skinny Love," but this is balanced with a rare sense of wisdom and self-awareness. Closer "Re:Stacks" is almost meditative - "This is not the sound of a new man or crispy realization / It's the sound of the unlocking and the lift away" is the closest that this album gets to optimism, but it is just as spellbinding as every other line on the record.
Musically, there are few comparisons that one could reasonably make with this album- vocally, Justin Vernon doesn't have the delicacy of Jeff Buckley (who seems to have somewhat unfairly become the unofficial benchmark for every male singer/songwriter on the planet), and the guitar work is nothing flashy, but one can not help but envy the obvious musical freedom that has been exercised during the making of this record - almost certainly due to the loneliness and isolation that he must have experienced during this time.
Because of this, the instrumentation is varied and flexible like nothing else I have ever heard before - the soundscapes range from understated yet innovative guitar ballads such as "Creature Fear" and "Blindsided" to lush choirs ("Lump Sum") to the sparse 'gospel-like' vocal arrangement on "The Wolves (Act 1&2)," a haunting masterpiece which eventually unfolds to become a thunderous, schizophrenic, beautiful mass of what could be literally hundreds of layered vocals, pounding acoustic guitars and rowdy percussion. Though even at it's musical 'biggest,' there is an all-pervading sense of poignant loneliness, or perhaps 'intimacy,' throughout the album - if you are anything like me, you will be constantly reminded of the fact that this record was made by a man completely isolated from the world. Though this is no bad thing - it only adds to the charm.
Overall, "For Emma, Forever Ago" reads like a revealing trip, both lyrically and musically, into Justin Vernon's troubled, world-weary mind. However, this is no pathetic, whiny, false attempt at honesty - this is a real, dynamic, vibrant masterpiece which will surely shape the next generation of songwriting.
38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For Emma, Forever Ago,
Like Dylan, Justin Vernon aka Bon Iver (it's a one-man show) understands that simple, acoustic-led arrangements married with lyrical depth can really pack a punch. Written during a self-imposed period of isolation in the Wisconsin woods after the break-up with his girlfriend and a serious illness, For Emma, Forever Ago is an achingly elegiac album and each track is an emotionally-charged vignette. Listen to Skinny Love for a sample of Vernon's musings on the loneliness of losing love or The Wolves (Act 1 and II) for a taste of accusatory hurt: `someday my pain will mark you. Harness your blame'. Despite its soul-baring, For Emma... is a surprisingly uplifting journey and a reminder of the beauty one man and his guitar can create.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good winter, forever after,
It would be easy to dismiss the history behind the recording of For Emma, Forever Ago as mere press release hype. Yes, Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) recorded this album recovering from some deep personal disappointments in an isolated log cabin over one bitter Wisconsin winter - but what does the music sound like? I'm not really interested in whether a singer-songwriter's music can be framed as `authentic' - only in whether I find it engaging or not. Luckily, For Emma, Forever Ago is every bit as atmospheric, soulful and intimate as the hype would have you believe, but not nearly as bleak as you might expect.
For all it's sparse acoustics - the album was carefully layered by Vernon on a four-track - For Emma, Forever Ago is oddly uplifting, evoking a sense of resurrection or salvation in the beauty of musical expression. Love, loss and loneliness are all lyrical threads, but this is not a dispiriting listen. Some lo-fi sonic embellishment gives Vernon's raw folk a sense space and depth. These subtle, icy electronics - which remind me in texture of some of Godspeed's ambient passages - levitate this beyond conventional singer-songwriter territory. Moreover, the vocals - a soulful falsetto that recalls Lambchop's Kurt Wagner or My Morning Jacket's Jim James - are multi-tracked, giving a sense of ghosly communion rather than isolation. Particularly on the opening two tracks, Vernon's experimentation with layered harmonies acquires a celestial ambience. A wintery beauty, for fans of Micah P Hinson and the Gospel of Progress, Iron & Wine, Lambchop and My Morning Jacket.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bon Iver - the best album of 2008,
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
For Emma just creeps up on you and invades your existence but in the most wondrous way. The only album which has impacted on me in a similar fashion is Jeff Buckley's "Grace". Its much more than a simple singer songwriter effort, it points in new directions. I had an awful long drive home one evening in the pitch darkness and listened to it properly. It's like having your best in friend in the car with you. When it finished I just put it back on again and enjoy. Very wintry, frosty, isolated, atmospheric and lovely. Creature Fear and Lump Sum are brilliant. While Blindsided and Wolves would grace any great acoustic album. Indeed its distant cousin is probably Will Oldham (Bonnie "Prince" Billy's) "Master and Everyone" which is well worth checking out as one of the greatest Americana albums of recent years. Finally on "For Emma" there is "Re. Stacks" - the song of the year. Love the verse that goes -
"There's a black crow sitting across from me; his wiry legs are crossed
And he's dangling my keys he even fakes a toss
Whatever could it be
That has brought me to this loss?"
Quite where Justin Vernon goes next I don't know; but I do care a lot.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Peaceful,
I bought this CD on recommendation from Amazon, so bit of a risk for me.
At first I wasn't convinced, but left it in the car. And what I've found is pretty amazing - the feeling I get when this is playing is one of such serenity and calmness, it's wonderful. Now, when this is playing, trips in the car are less about the destination and more about the journey.
4.0 out of 5 stars Beguiling stuff,
27 year old Justin Vernon's nom de guerre is Bon Iver. He hails from Wisconsin USA. This album was recorded in his father's hunting cabin over three months - November, December 2006 and January 2007, with a small amount of additional recording (drums and horns) near Raleigh North Carolina. The reason being, he needed to escape from hometown Eau Claire, to reflect on the break-up of his band De Yarmond. He hadn't planned to 'make' an album, but the isolation became an inspiration in creating yet another piece in the ever-expanding Americana genre. By definition, this is a one-man-band who's created a rustic and gorgeous suit of low-fi songs that have a tenderness and warmth all of their own. Considering the time and place, this is some achievement, really. I've been there, Wisconsin, so I can relate to this album's demograph. His wafer-thin falsetto just adds to the overall charm. Make no mistake, he may have been in a reflective mood, but there isn't any hint of melancholy or bitterness.
It's just a man, a guitar, and his thoughts, in union. And what a union it is. Flume, gentle opener, is fairly stripped back, probably much like the sparse room it was recorded in, where we hear Vernon's movements as he hesitantly strums his acoustic guitar which sharply juxtapose with the celestial 'choir' section. Had anyone been peeping through a window, they would have seen quite a surreal vista indeed.
It's as if he's trying to keep the moment all to himself. Multiple Vernon over-dubs provide the heavenly choric effect for the beginning of Lump Sum, which again, he lovingly strums at pace. A similar flow ensues on the (slightly) more indigenously rooted Skinny Love, with its "my, my, my, "repetition enough to make it radio-friendly, just. Then comes the gem of gems. Sparse The Wolves, is melody heavy with that swirling falsetto multiplied for an awesome audio experience with exploding drums like fireworks building into the crescendo. For the start of Creature Fear, he's gone for a magnificent Beach Boys close-harmony effect that precursors the two part undulating dynamic. Team's banging drum intro continues throughout, layered by whistles and clangs. Another major highlight is the divine For Emma. Strums, trumpeting electric guitar, horns, and a cool understated beat make it the most gorgeous song here, with the singing kept to the minimum.
Signing -off with re:stacks, we get a possible hint that his seclusion might also have something to do with a lady - "this is not the sound of a new man or crisp realization / it's the sound of the unlocking and the lift away / your love will be / safe with me." We can only guess.
Lyrically, For Emma, Forever as an album, is cryptic, and secretive even, but you're still engaged somehow. In many ways it's very enigmatic. And why not.
File under: Totally, totally beguiling debut.
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you Emma!,
This review is from: From Emma Forever Ago (Audio CD)
For Emma, Forever Ago was created by American singer-songwriter Justin Vernon in the spring of 2007. After breaking up with his girlfriend he hauled his weary and troubled soul to a remote cabin in Wisconsin, living for three months on nothing but Deer meat and water, and poured his heart out onto the basic recording equipment that he had.
It's been a long time, longer than I can remember, since I have heard an album of such immense beauty. Every track is packed with so much emotion that, if you have a heart, cannot fail to floor you. Gentle acoustic guitars and Vernon's incredible voice, think Jeff & Tim Buckley mixed with a sprinkle of Princes' falsetto and you are someway to describing it, make up the bulk of the album with the occasional smattering of basic drums and horns added in to great effect.
It would be hard to pick a standout track as every one is purely sublime, but if I had to then it would be the album's closer re:stacks. Near on six minutes of one the most beautiful songs you will ever hear about losing a love.
To sum up, I think this is a wonderful record, as you may have gathered, and if you don't have it already then I beg you to buy it right now, drop what you are doing and head to the nearest record shop and buy it. If you don't then, well, there is no hope really.
50 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece.,
In a similar vein to Damien Rice's debut album O, For Emma, Forever Ago is currently spending its gestation time simmering below the radar of popular consciousness before it surely soars into the affections of many. Like Damien Rice before him, Justin Vernon (who in this case goes by the alias, Bon Iver) has created a record of such delicate, intimate beauty that you are left amazed by how it could leave you quite so drained.
Although many reading this will already be aware of the context of this record and how it was made, it is integral to the listening experience and so worth mentioning again - although in truth, the music and melodies alone will be enough for some (perhaps more so given the lyrics are slightly hard to distinguish without the booklet). Following the break-up of his band and a relationship frustrated by an ongoing illness, Vernon 'hibernated' and ensconced himself in a cabin in the Wisconsin wilderness. His self-imposed isolation surfaced feelings of loss, guilt and longing carried over the years. With no real intention of recording, the three month exile ended up being musically inspiring and led to the recording of nine polished tracks - though polished doesn't seem like the correct word. The record's raw, organic constitution is thanks largely to the fact that Vernon was unprepared to record and used only basic equipment he had with him at the time. Each track offers little more than acoustic guitars, occasional electric guitar licks and an inventive use of vocal layering and haunting vocal reverb effects.
The album opens strongly with Flume and you are immediately aware that you are experiencing something of particular note. Instantly, the album's striking sense of poignancy seems to flood out of Vernon's falsettos and harmonies. The song's passing lyric "Sky is womb / And she's the moon" leaves you wondering long into the next track. Like nearly all of Vernon's poetry, the subject is always kept at arms length. Each song's meaning is left twisted and hidden from view, reflective of Vernon's lonely, tortured circumstance. Lump Sum picks up the pace with its 4/4 intro - its seductive chorus having you mimic the "Or so the story goes" refrain before you realise.
Picking up tiny lyric segments and being attached to them is a real feature of the album - again largely due to its low fidelity recording. Skinny Love is reminiscent of Lennon circa Dear Prudence as Vernon's anguish bears itself in a series of searing exclamations: "Who will love you? / Who will fight? / Who will fall far behind?" With its own sense of momentum each track seems to provide the perfect platform for the next. The rousing finale of The Wolves (Act I and II) and its repetition "What might have been lost / What might have been lost / What might have been lost" vignettes Blindsided's palpable sense of unexpected love and expected heartbreak, beautifully.
Although this album challenges more than it resolves, there are moments of hope and love. For Emma, perhaps the album's only song to be composed in a major key, describes a playful dispute between lovers and is a relieving tonic to the album's sometimes claustrophobic sense of solitude. It ends with the well-timed: "With all your lies / You're still very loveable." The song's stirring use of brass instruments acts to soothe after some of the album's darker moments. The album's farewell is another mesmeric highlight. Its simple verse and chorus cycle could happily turn over another ten times, weaving and meandering before the stacked staccato delivery of the song's chorus leaves an indelible impression on even the most thick-skinned listener.
Like many of the classic albums, albums that seem to pass through decades while hardly ageing, it is as if every moment - from the nagging, buzzing guitar string heard during Flume to the appearance of a vocoder during The Wolves (Act I and II) - no matter how incongruous it may seem, becomes ultimately fundamental to the album's success. For Emma, Forever Ago is the product of a time spent alone; a period of immense self-realisation, introspection and reflection. Justin Vernon's catharsis has benefited everyone. Among its cold chill are moments of genuine beauty and the message that we are all capable of confronting our fears and loss. This is the first musical masterpiece of the new century.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I agree in the end,
This review is from: From Emma Forever Ago (Audio CD)
Uncut very rarely give out 5 star reviews, so on that basis Bon Iver's debut was something to go and search out. To be honest on first listen I didn't get past the vocal similarity to TV On The Radio (with that same echo of Peter Gabriel). On third and fourth listen I wasn't convinced that there was more than strumming and "pleasant" sounds here. But as is common with a few albums there comes a moment (and in hindsight you're never sure when it was) everything clicked into place, and yes indeed I agree this is worthy of all of those 5 stars.
These are not so much songs as soundscapes, put together like watercolours. Mostly white but with expertly crafted detail. The Uncut reviewer gave "Skinny Love" the only 4 star mark on the album, and I totally disagree, I love that track. If there was any of these to be marked down then it would be the opener "Flume" but that would be harsh.
If I have a criticism it is that with "Creature Fear" and "Team" being essentially two parts of the same track, there are actually only 8 songs and I feel slightly short changed. But that's only a minor gripe. There are too many "hairs standing up on the scalp" moments to really criticise.
An excellent debut and I look forward to more to come.
4.0 out of 5 stars Soothing sounds for the soul. Should be compulsory 'therapy' for anxious individuals!,
I held off buying this because there was so much 'hype' about it, more often than not the hype is rarely accurate. But I finally parted with my money to sample some Bon Iver.
The hype, this time, as far as I'm concerned is justified. On the first listen I nearly cried (no mean feat, I don't shed tears for silly things like songs normally!) and it was simply because of the sounds; his voice, the instruments and although there's a melancholic atmosphere to the album, there's also a tinge of 'innocence' and hope, a feeling that his voice is 'cradling' you. They are the most relaxing sounds I've heard in a long time (and I don't 'relax' easily).
If you like Fleet Foxes and Sigur Ros, you'll surely love this.
I won't go 'harping' on about his lyrics, because I'm far from a poet.
The best music, albums or songs are those which shake your emotions, and this one certainly does.
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