January 20, 2009

"For Emma, Forever Ago" by Bon Iver

Okay people it’s been a while since my last review. I procrastinate; get over it. But I needed to review this album before it slips through anybody’s fingers. Before I jump into the review, let’s set the mood. I am sitting in a giant lodge in Sugar Bowl (snowboarding spot for you fools who don’t live in California) right now; I am supposedly in the “quiet” room. Kids are running around and adults are talking really, really loud. Somehow, I am at complete peace. That is because I am listening to “For Emma, Forever Ago” by Bon Iver. Right now I would give you a backstory to Justin Vernon who goes by “Bon Iver” (pronounced Bon Eever) but this place has no internet…sigh. Anyways, this is a purely amazing album. From start to finish, this CD will mellow you out and just make you feel flat-out happy about life. The only song that takes a little while to grow on you is “The Wolves (Act I and III)”. It has grown on me but it took a while. The song is not really put together but at the end, the voices and melodies come together for a nice conclusion. For Emma, Forever Ago is an acoustic album with a very mellowed out drum and percussion set. In all the songs, the ranging vocals of Justin Vernon and slow acoustic pickings are the main focus while the background percussion set a differing beat through each song. I do have three songs that absolutely make me smile. These songs are “Flume”, “Skinny Love”, and “Creature Fear”. I am only going to examine these songs but PLEASE take my word that every song on here is worth your complete, undivided attention. Okay, so “Flume” is the very first song on For Emma, Forever Ago and it really shows you what this album is going to be. In this song, you have some truly spine chilling lyrics as his first words are “I am my mother’s only one; it’s enough”. Then you have the constant beat of a shallow acoustic guitar and tapping of a drumstick and the rim of a drum. Then near the end of the song a women jumps into to accompany Vernon’s great vocals. Then we get to “Skinny Love”. This song is only guitar but Justin Vernon puts two different guitars on top of each other and the song gets a much fuller feeling. The two guitar are mostly playing the same thing for the duration for the song but at times one guitar will drop into a short bass line or strum a little melody. For such a simple song, it feels so complete and the vocals evoke a sense that you need to tell somebody how you truly feel about them or make you think about something that you lost. Then we approach my favorite song on the entire CD: “Creature Fear”. It starts off like a Fleet Foxes song where it sounds like the recording took place in a church. Then it changes to a very slow guitar pattern as Bon Iver stretches his voice. I like to think of this part as the calm before the storm. After a miniscule pause we hit the chorus and what a chorus it is. Speedy, short, and to the point but something about it just hits me and makes me love it; I really can’t put into words. You’ll have to listen to the song to get my point. Then after a longer quiet section we have a much longer chorus and the song really shows its organs. You have Bon Iver sining into the microphone with a sense of urgency but still a resilient sweetness. Then, once the chorus ends you are left with a stranded bass line, a consistent beat drum, some lonely guitar picking, and the returning echoed chants. So, here’s the final verdict; For Emma, Forever Ago is an amazing album that you absolutely must get. It is not the perfect album but any album that makes one feel happy inside is a must-get. I have recommended it to everyone I know and no one has been disappointed. If you don’t pick this up you will be missing one of the best albums of 2008 and one of the most subtly beautiful albums I have ever heard.

Score: 9.2 – “Only love is all maroon”

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