For Emma Forever Ago CD
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Critically acclaimed debut album by the indie folk group, fronted by singer-songwriter Justin Vernon.
It's hard to believe that For Emma, Forever Ago is the work of one man. But when Justin Vernon's old band split he hauled himself (and presumably plenty of instruments and recording equipment) to his dad's hunting cabin in the woods of Wisconsin for the coldest season and worked through his issues in musical form. (The name comes from the French for "good winter"--"bon hiver"). By the start of the spring thaw he had recorded the bulk of this stunning debut, originally self-issued to acclaim last year in the USA and now picked up by 4AD for a British release. Vernon's voice grabs the ear from the start, switching easily into a smooth falsetto (and unusually for a white indie lad, without the slightest intent of emulating Prince). The formula is straightforward. He layers his vocal harmonies, while a gently strummed acoustic rhythm guitar just about holds the centre. All else from horns to slide guitar is mere detail. The quality is rough and ready but the effect is strangely similar though to the slick vocal confections of European women like Bjork and Camille, all mystery and distance. It's the musical equivalent of reading someone else's diary. In code. Through a dirty window. Enigmatic songs like the elegantly stumbling "Creature Fear" with its rowdy horn parts, the resolute opener "Flume" and the evanescent "Team" are just so pretty they seem to glide by without leaving a mark in the snow. Vernon is apparently a straightforward and friendly guy, but For Emma, Forever Ago genuinely sounds like something from a far off place. --Steve JelbertSee all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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?Read more ›
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.
On a more personal level, this was the first album for me that addressed love and loss in such an oblique manner ('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' is only one example of many) so as, counter intuitively, to make it seem more genuine, free from what I perceived to be the clichés of songs about heartbreak.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
VINYL VERSION. The 4AD label did a great job pressing this album. The vinyl is dead silent (after a proper cleaning, of course). Read morePublished 1 day ago by Marcelo
The vinyl arrived quickly and plays beautifully. The sleeve arrived wrapped well with a plastic case and with an album lyric sheet which was a lovely addition to the purchase. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Emma Barnes