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85 of 92 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2008
I can see why reaction to Bon Iver is so fragmented. There are those who hail it an instant epic, and others who think its pastoral nonsense. I'm somewhat in the middle - granted, these sorts of slow burner indie-folk albums aren't for everybody, but there is definitely something more special about this particular album - more so because its a concept album about that most universal of animals - lost love.

While the harmonies here are subdued and very, very slow-paced, the atmosphere of the entire album is what makes it work. There is a heady iciness to the entire venture, a sort of morbid sadness even, one that permeates every single track. Like Camille's "Le Fil" which had a drone running through each song (and for minutes after the last song played), this mood of sombre melancholy is present in spades on this album, and this also works for it.

The centerpiece is the two-suite "The Wolves" and the luminous "Team". None of these songs work especially well on their own. Like any good novel, each song blends into the other so that the album needs to be listened to in chronological order. Bon Iver's mastery of the sparse musical medium is astounding, and the way he makes every track here speak its' own unique brand of solitudinal longing, is a work of art waiting to be unraveled.

For many people who read this positive review, you might well buy this album and be shocked by the 'dull', 'slow' songs therein. This is in part true. It takes a while to 'get' what the artist is trying to accomplish here, but if you approach this as a rich experimental piece worth investing in, you just might reap some invaluable rewards.

Highly Recommended.
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84 of 93 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2008
Upon hearing "Skinny Love", probably the most accessible song on "For Emma, Forever Ago", it was running through my head the rest of the week as I played it over and over again. This should in no way denigrate the rest of the album, which packs a surprising punch in 9 subtle songs. It would be easy to just treat "For Emma..." as background music, but a careful listen reveals layers of melody overlaid by Justin Vernon's impressive vocals.

"The Wolves (Act I and II)" starts off slowly but builds into a powerful message at the album's core:
What might have been lost
Don't bother me
The title track "For Emma" further embellishes on what might have been lost with a mixture of trumpet and strained guitar. The crooning of "Creature Fear" builds into the wonderfully moody instrumental "Team".

It is often mentioned that this album was written over the course of 4 wintry months in a Wisconsin cabin. Stereotyping the quiet solitude of this album on its origins is unfair, however: this isn't just one of those singer/songwriter efforts you hear about some guy writing on his own out in the woods; it is the epitome of a singer/songwriter recording the heartfelt musings of life in isolation.

I highly recommend this album--it's subtle tones on first listen grow into brilliance.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2009
I love this album. I first heard it in a little speakeasy bar in Chicago and I fell in love with it. It's great for those mornings when you're just waking up and you want to sit down with a cup of coffee and stare out of the window at the freshly fallen snow. It's perfect even for those lazy Sundays where it seems all too appropriate to make blueberry pancakes at 4pm-- you know, just because.

It's a great Wintery album with a hint of Spring towards the end. It's peaceful but yet it pulls at you from somewhere deep within, making you want you swoon with him. It is a musical diary of a heartbroken man.

And it is glorious.
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59 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2008
I'm afraid to listen to this record too much as I don't ever want it's brilliance to dim. Best thing I've heard in quite a while. Let's see, Feist was the last artist that moved me like this, not that Bon Iver is anything like that and he'll probably never be over played in trendy boutique, but there's something so deep and soulful in the plaintive whisperings on this record. Mostly it's quiet, mostly it's bone chillingly beautiful. I actually bought it with Neil Young's Live at Massey Hall, and they somehow speak to each other with a sidelong glance to Vashti Bunyan's Lookaftering. Take a chance on this like I did, you won't be disappointed. I hope to hear more from Bon Iver!
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon December 11, 2008
The creation story is already a legend.

As winter descended, Justin Vernon moved to his father's cabin in the woods of Northwestern Wisconsin. He was "60 miles away from anyone I love, sometimes more like 1500." But he was "about 18 feet away from everything I love" --- a pile of old guitars, a mound of microphones, wires, chords, electric boxes. For several months, he dug in, chopping wood, thinking, writing, playing, recording. When he emerged, he had nine songs, about 35 minutes of music.

He smartly added a bit of production here, some backup there, and let the music breathe. Overnight, a cult formed. Now he and his two-man band are known as Bon Iver --- a play on the French for "good winter" --- and his debut CD is on all the best iPods.

The creation story hasn't hurt. But this is one time an ascent is almost totally because of the musical achievement. Here's Vernon's take:

"It's been painted in the reviews of the record as this magical four months of hunkering down and writing a record. In reality I headed out to the cabin because I just didn't know what to do next in my life. Once I got there though it just felt like all the blocks that I had put in my brain and heart in terms of musical expression started to loosen. They had been there for so long and the only thing that was able to loosen them up, and loosen me up, was having that much space...."

Space, as it turns out, is the glory of "For Emma". The lyrics are sparse and enigmatic --- the opening lines of the CD are "I am my mother's only one/It's enough" --- and sometimes they're more sounds than words. The music will strike prissy listeners as mere strumming. If there's a clear gift here, it's Vernon's voice --- he can go falsetto so fast and true that even Neil Young has to bow.

The triumph lies in Vernon's ability to bring you to the very gates of mystery. He not only explores inner space, he creates it. You'll experience open fields, open hearts, what Vernon calls in one song "the sound of the unlocking and the lift away". In its small size lies its vast power. And more: It makes you feel peaceful. And hopeful in the way that you sometimes feel hope at the far side of tears.

"For Emma" is gossamer --- you may not remember how most of these songs go.

But be warned: It imprints. Very, very deeply.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2010
Yep, most ridiculous music ever. Infact maybe not even music. Oh! But then there's those other levels of human perception and emotion is one of them. Whatever this guy did, whether he stayed in a cabin for a year or whatever, after you listen to it, you put it down and think, "never again." And then all of sudden, yeah, one more time. and then one more. And then... yeah it's the saddess music there's ever been but it's never tired and you want to hear it just one more time... and just one more time... and for emma, forever ago...
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2011
I picked this item up on vinyl from a local record store, but I've had it on my Amazon Wishlist for a while, so I figured I'd write a review. The music itself is excellent, and is in keeping with the other high reviews on this artist/album. Very heartfelt, one-guy-and-his-guitar-in-a-cabin-in-the-woods-reflecting-on-life. Great listening for a rainy day or evening, or just when you need background noise for an introspective moment. Regarding specifically the vinyl copy of the album, this is a quality pressing which is of the same audio quality as the CD release. Additionally, my copy from the record store included a coupon inside for a free digital download of the album (I can't guarantee that Amazon copies offer the same deal). If you enjoy Bon Iver, vinyl, and are looking for easy listening, I highly recommend this album in this format.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2008
I am absolutely in love with this album and yes, it is past the lust stage. I simply can not stop listening to this album. "Flume" and "Skinny Love" are my personal favorites but this is one of those albums where you dont really want to skip and you can listen to over and over. You will thank yourself for checking this out.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2009
I read an interview of Bon Iver, in which the singer/songwriter told a story of a man in Iceland who wrote him a letter to tell the musician that when he first listened to For Emma, Forever Ago he broke down in tears.

One gander through this icy, melancholic, austere, and beautiful album and you understand the story above.

Understand the story, but not so much the origin of the unknown man's tears - or, for that matter, your own. It is hard to listen to this album and not get sentimental. For this album lingers in the recesses of more complicated emotion, in between joy or depression, somewhere in the hazy, gray, middle area of melancholia or solitary bliss.

This album leaves listeners more moved than pensive. Its lyrics are nonsensical, but brim over with meaning.

This album is a stranger you pass at night along a rain-covered, cobblestone street in Vienna, who you swear you know from somewhere - but with no clue from where.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2010
This is a great album to listen to in the fall time with (depending on where you live) all the changing colors and falling leaves. The singers voice is very interesting in my opinion and the album as a whole really grows on you. When I first heard it, I thought it was okay but every time I listen to it I like it more and more.

My one complaint is that it is a VERY short album. My friend burned me this album along with the "Blood Bank" B-side an extra amazing B-side that is not-titled and I have no idea where it came from. So I combine all the song together on my ipod to create, what I think, is a more complete album.

Is this the greatest album of all time? By no means, no. However, there is a lot of passion in it and it is a very unique piece of music. Let me put it this way, if I were only allowed to own 100 albums, this would for sure be in the list.
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