Sound: Track Listing of: For Emma, Forever Ago:
04.The Wolves (Act I&II)
In 2007, North Carolina resident Justin Vernon removed himself from society and placed himself in a cabin in the middle of Wisconsin, in the middle of no where, in the middle of winter, to hibernate. He was hibernating to escape from his band break up, recovering from his last break up, and recovering from his bout with mononucleosis.
Vernon stayed in his father's cabin where he would cut down wood and hunt deer to eat on. He brought along his guitar with the sole purpose of NOT recording. As the days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, Vernon found an old 8 track recorder and a few Shure microphones. Using his Silvertone guitar and other doo-dads around the house (such as pencils, popcorn, etc.) he finally decided to record. In his recordings, he poured his mind, heart, and soul into his music.
One day while watching a French movie, he heard the French phrase, Bon Hiver (good winter). Vernon dropped the H and adapted that as his stage name. When the winter snow began to melt, he returned to society with a couple of copies of his album. After a lot of encouragement from his friends, Vernon released his album to a local magazine who promoted it. Jagjaguar Records picked up on it; and after slight editing and a few re-recordings, Bon Iver was released to the public under the album name "For Emma, Forever Ago"
For Emma, Forever Ago (FEFA) is a shoddy recording session that somehow spurs the deepest part of my heart. Even though some of the words are hard to hear, even though you can hear the settling of the house in which Vernon lives in, it all somehow creates a surreal and beautiful sonic landscape. Sonically, the recordings aren't professional by any means, yet, as mentioned before, it adds to the beauty of Vernon's record. All of the songs have basic guitar, sometimes a basic bass and snare drum, and then multi-layered gospel-like vocals (by Vernon), New Orleans trumpets, and simple, yet heartfelt bass runs.
Somehow, this makes truly magical music. It sounds like a match from hell, but this is as closed to simplistic beauty as possible. // 10
Lyrics: According to Vernon himself, he recorded the guitar first. Then hummed over the rhythm to form the melody and then wrote words over it. The listener can hear it in each song: the fact that Vernon has battled with extreme heart-wrenching problems. Sometimes, Bon Iver sings about his always-loving mother, other times about a failing romance, another song is the parting of a couple. While it may seem clich, the orchestration of the lyrics can almost make a man cry. The lyrics evoke dreary, snow covered woods that somehow creates a personal fire inside. // 9
Overall Impression: I will now do a track-by-track review of the nine songs in the album.
01.Flume: this is the song that got me hooked. The basic chord progression evokes simplicity, yet when the layered falsetto vocals come in, you can feel the love a mother has for a son in secret and metaphorical lyrics. "Only love is all maroon" This is perhaps my favorite song on this album. 10/10 especially for catchy chorus
02.Lump Sum: the first thing a listener will notice is a fast, driving acoustic rhythm that is accompanied with Iver's story of returning home with the lyrical hook, "...so the story goes." 8/10 kudos to the fast paced acoustic guitar
03.Skinny Love: this song has a simple acoustic guitar with extremely heart-felt lyrics that discuss a failing romance. While my friends love this song the most, this isn't my favorite song. 7/10
04.The Wolves (Act I&II): this song has an extremely sparse and distant acoustic accompaniment with multiple-layers of Iver's gospel like drone. The song starts slow and then builds into a rush of ambient sounds, what sounds like popcorn popping over an open fire, broken guitar strings, and the like, finally settles back into the lyrical hook, "Someday my pain will mark you." The song is about a failed relationship as well as Skinny Love. Honestly, this song grows on you. 7/10-I like the intense build up
05.Blindsided: Jose Gonzalez like guitar here with cryptic lyrics that starts mellow then builds into an emotional-falsetto. I can't begin to understand what the hell Iver is talking about here other than being surprised. 8/10
06.Creature Fear: this song begins with a layered vocal country-like introduction. That builds into a layered falsetto verse with an intense chorus. This song flows directly to the next song, Team. 9/10- I really like the first chorus line, "So many foreign worlds/So relativily f--ked.
07.Team: simply a bass line/snare run that continues Creature Fear. Kinda weird how this was executed. 5/10- not bad, just random
08.For Emma: the open chord progression with the slide guitar leading evokes images of an open arctic tundra. The lyrics sound cryptic until you look at the lyric booklet that comes with the album. We find that the song is an alternating dialogue between a couple going their separate ways. This song is both anthemic and sad. "...For Emma, For Ever Ago". 10/10- Props to the trumpet/trombone duet at the end. Also, +1 to the poetic lyrics. The way it's organized it could be a play. Read the lyrics to understand.
09.re: Stacks: I have yet to understand what the name means. This song doesn't particularly stand out, except for the end, in which Bon Iver admit's to the ending of his struggles with the closing album line, "All your love will be safe with me" 7 (+1 more point for the ending line)
The story behind my discovery of Bon Iver is last year, I had a math teacher who played the acoustic guitar and enjoyed folk music and liked to play his collection during class. I was doing a worksheet when I heard a song my teacher was playing through his iPod. My initial thought was, "That's just perfect. It's like everything that could fall into place just has." I asked my teacher who this artist was, and he told me something that sounded like "Boneever". That night at home, I looked up Bon Eever, only to find that it was in fact, Bon Iver. I played through all the songs to find the one that I had heard in class. It was Flume. I also bought Lump Sum, The Wolves (Act I&II), re:Stacks, and Blood Bank. That night, I set my iTunes to repeat playlist, and played all 5 songs, all through the night. I would wake up at random times in the night and hear Bon Iver playing. To me, it sounded surreal and majestic. A few weeks later, I bought the album "For Emma, Forever Ago" by "Bon Iver". I also digitally purcharsed Bon Iver's EP "Blood Bank".
Finally, I would like to add, even if you don't like folk, buy this album because it's so surreal and amazing. // 10