Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

The sound of one man: alone in the woods in a cold wilderness somewhere in America. Bon Iver comes from the French Bon Hiver, which apparently means good winter. For Emma, Forever Ago defiantly sounds like a good winter well spent. Justin Vernon is the man behind Bon Iver and he first released For Emma, Forever Ago by him self D.I.Y. style late last year. It has come to my attention this year mind with its actual label release on 4AD. The story goes a little something like this; Vernon and his previouse band DeYarmond Edison split for reasons I don’t know, then he decided to go and live in solitued in a hunting cabbin in Wesconsin, where the majorite of the Bon Iver album was recorded over four months in the cold. Hence the good winter referances in the projects name. According to Pitchfork Justin Vernon tought himself how to hunt and live for himself out there. Aparently swaping kills for instrument repairs. His cabbin must have been pretty good to have enough recording equipment for this beauty though. Now lets have less of the indie folk myth that is the making of Bon Iver and move onto the music.

For Emma, Forever Ago is beautiful: the skeletal backbone to all he songs are breathtaking and make this album so lonely in parts. But that is counter balanced by the layers and layers of vocals intertwining, building and making dense melodies. Vernon’s voice is so beautiful, a falsetto to die for that soars over the plucky little guitar parts and minimally made loops. It’s all so home made and reflects the image of one-man left in the wilderness, mid-winter with only his thoughts and creativity. Bon Iver is touching and heartbreaking, with a tenderness that grabs you and draws you in. One of the only criticisms I have is that on occasions I wish the vocals where more sparse, I think this depends on my mood though. It’s all so personal and low-key. The lo-fi loops and simple acoustic guitar arrangements are brought to life with multi-tracked vocals, which somehow make it all sound less lonely even if you can still tell its on man in a cabin alone. I love the fact you can hear him at the end of recordings moving to turn equipment off.

There is a cosiness to all these tracks like Vernon had come in from the cold, stoked up the fire and spilt his thoughts out over long nights. Flume is a lovely acoustic indie folk ballad and a prefect opener. Maybe my favourite track is Lump Sum with its limited kick drum percussion and almost holey vocals. Skinny Love is a cracker and leads on to the heartbreakingly beautiful The Wolves (Act I and II), which descends into, drum clatters and emotion. There isn’t a bad song out of the nine Blindsided is so nice and the closer re-Stacks is just brilliant.

This is going to be one of those albums to stick on late into the night I think, on your own and in a reflective mood. Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago is a low-key masterpiece that should make for a good summer let alone winter.

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