Customer Reviews: For Emma, Forever Ago [Vinyl]
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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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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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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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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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on 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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on March 31, 2016
Bon Iver’s debut album, For Emma, Forever ago, is an amazing album. His sound is very subdued, yet powerfully moving. It is easy listening and chill – a perfect album to pair with your morning cup of coffee or to close the night when sorting through your own thoughts.

Justin Vernon (the voice behind Bon Iver) wrote and recorded this album in a hunting cabin in Northwestern Wisconsin in the winter of 2006-07.

Side 1:
-Lump Sum
-Skinny Love
-The Wolves (Act I and II)

Side 2:
-Creature Fear
-For Emma
-re: stacks

This album includes a lyrics insert and a digital download.

Label: JAGJAGUWAR, 1499 West 2nd St, Bloomington, IN 47403 ©2008
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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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on July 24, 2016
It sounds beautiful, and I cannot stop listening to it! The free MP3 download did not sound as good as the record did, and I noticed a few high-pitched noises in the MP3 version that i have not heard in any other version of this album. Other than that, though, this record is amazing. The sound on the vinyl is wonderful!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon March 13, 2012
Several years before Bon Iver made the big time with 2011's self-titled realease, he (Justin Vernon) recorded this album at a hunting cabin in northeast Wisconsin during the winter of 2006-2007. It is really good. In fact I like it more than the newer album. Although all the songs have an ethereal beauty about them, I've really enjoyed listening to "Lump Sum", the second track. This is a new pressing so everything is perfect as I write this.
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on October 13, 2014
Admittedly I am a fan of Justin Vernon - particularly his work as Bon Iver. After loving Bon Iver, Bon Iver, I decided to try this releas It's a pretty stunning work. Vernon has an indescribable music style for me but it draws me in. This release seems like a melding of the various styles of music he has explored over the years. He really has a wonderful voice but his use of technical equipment to modulate it and use it as an instrument is remarkable. It will be enjoyed immensely by Vernon fans. It also may be of interest to folks who appreciate technical genius.
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