Friday, March 07, 2008

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

I felt compelled to listen to this album after reading a write-up about it in Paste. They compared his music to Iron & Wine and TV On the Radio.
This could not be accurate.
Still, I couldn't shake it. I had to hear it. "If someone sounds like a mix of those two artists, I need to hear it."
So I listened to it.
While I don't necessarily agree with their assessment, I can see where they came up with it.
Bon Iver is the band name for one man: Justin Vernon. This album is full of folksy songs, many times driven by nothing more than a guitar and vocals. Some other instrumentation finds its way in from time to time, but, for the most part, this is a pretty bare bones album. The story goes like this: Justin wanted to make a rustic-sounding album, so he locked himself in a remote cabin in Wisconsin for 4 months, and recorded this album.
As I said, musically, it's pretty bare bones. I suppose that's where the Iron & Wine comparison came from. But there's a different feel to Bon Iver's sense of folk than there is to Iron & Wine's sense of folk. There's a sense of creepiness that seeps into this album, like there was a ghost present during the recording of this album. It's a haunting album, even if I can't quite put it into words.
It's a sparse album, but it doesn't always feel that way. There's a depth to this album that almost seems unnatural given the lack of instrumentation that is used. A big part of that goes to the vocals, which are, at times, fairly similar to those of Tunde Adebimpe (thus the TV On the Radio reference). It seems that there is never just one vocal track. Throughout the album, he has double and triple-tracked his voice, and sometimes it feels like there's a chorus singing eerily in the background.
While I listened to this album because I was curious, I came away thinking that it didn't sound too much like the write-up said it did. Sure, the music is kind of folksy, but that doesn't mean it sounds like Iron & Wine. He has an interesting voice, but that doesn't mean it sounds anything like TV On the Radio. In fact, there are times when his voice and style echo artists like Bill Withers or Marvin Gaye more than they do either of those two artists. Still, the write-up got me to listen to the album, so I suppose it did what it was supposed to do.
For Emma, Forever Ago is an album that is simultaneously comforting and haunting. It is an album that is begging to be played on winter days and dark nights. Highly recommended.
Rating: 9.3
Favorite Songs: "Skinny Love", "The Wolves (Act I & II)", "re: Stacks"
Check out his website

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