Bon Iver,
For Emma, Forever Ago
(Jagjaguwar, 2008)

Bon Iver (an intentional misspelling of the French term meaning "good winter") is the most recent musical incarnation of folk artist Justin Vernon, an effort that also consists of Michael Noyce, Sean Carey and Matthew McCaughan. The name originated from the environment where Vernon created the first album, a remote cabin in northern Wisconsin during the winter of 2007.

Since releasing their first album, Bon Iver has received major critical acclaim, and Justin Vernon continues to be recognized as one of the most influential folk artists of this age.

Bon Iver's sound on For Emma, Forever Ago is incredibly clear and pure. Vernon's falsetto is soothing and sounds almost tentative, but this simply increases the impact of the emotion so prevalent in his words. His music reflects exactly how and where it was made: a man reminiscing in isolation.

The music's simplicity, however, isn't the only quality that offers this album originality and popularity. Vernon's lyrics are not only amazingly poetic and thought-provoking, but the clear emotion in his words draws listeners in. He seems to be sharing his pain and regret without actually giving anything up. It's as though we're quietly peering into his soul, careful so as not to disturb what's occurring there.

In a world of crash and brazen music, listening to Bon Iver feels like taking a breather. Vernon's album manages to capture two very opposite emotions: it is at the same time both heartbreaking and heartwarming.

review by
Kristen Druse

9 January 2010

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