Monday, May 05, 2008

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

The backstory to Bon Iver's (Justin Vernon) debut album For Emma, Forever Ago is nearly as good as the album itself. Vernon began recording under the pseudonym Bon Iver after the breakup of DeYarmond Edison which was a group similar to Iron & Wine and Little Wings and sort of like Bonny "Prince" Billy. Vernon moved back to Wisconsin and took residence out at his father's hunting cabin deep in the woods. In the dead of winter. For 3 months. Alone. He wrote and recorded music in 12 hour spurts. What he produced was a nine song debut album by spring time. For the French majors 'Bon Iver' is an intentional misspelling of the French for 'good winter'. He polished the album off in a studio in North Carolina to add some horns and drums, but mostly left it very stripped down.

For Emma, Forever Ago is truly a stunning debut. (So stunning, that even The Fork gave it an 8.1.) It is an album that begs to be listened to curled up in front of a fireplace on a snowy night with some hot chocolate. While that's not how I first listened to it, I wish it had been. The album is very intimate and subtly powerful. Bon Iver draws you in with pristine falsetto tones that are disarming and songs that well constructed and very moving. The first thing you have to notice is Bon Iver's voice. There is no question it's what anyone would talk to you about first. His soaring falsetto is breathtaking and when he drops down the register and adds a mass of harmony vocals it is something special. Built around his voice are lightly strummed guitars, the occasional electric guitar, horns, light drums, and slide guitar. All of which never impede on his voice as the heart and soul of the music. They offer exactly what they should: accompaniment. His voice ebbs and flows. He knows how to build a song toward a climax and delivers each and every time. It is a debut whose songs are sure to be heard in emotion spaces in TV/Film for years to come. For Emma, Forever Ago captures the feeling of quiet isolation where the only sounds are snow falling gently on trees, the occasional crackle of firewood, and your own beating heart.

Bon Iver - Flume

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