Saturday, March 1, 2008

Bon Iver / "For Emma, Forever Ago"

Peaceful, beautiful, and transfixing, "For Emma, Forever Ago" is the first great album of 2008. The debut album for the alias of Justin Vernon, it's an entirely new breed of folk music, coming across as a pitch-perfect blend of Califone, Iron and Wine, and TV on the Radio. What's even more surprising than the varied influences, is that the one it most resembles is TV on the Radio. Vernon's voice ranges from a soulful baritone to a falsetto similar to that of Tunde Adebimpe, TV on the Radio's lead singer. The other similarities lie in the vocal arrangements and harmonies. The beginning of "The Wolves (Act I and II)" could easily pass for an acoustic version of a track from the "Young Liars" EP.

What's all the more impressive is the way Vernon merges TV on the Radio vocals with a stripped-down (pre-"Woman King")Iron and Wine aesthetic. On "Lump Sum" the vocals rise into a rich, swirling harmony all while done over a minimalistic arrangement. The impressive, spralling vocals placed over basic harmonies allows the vocals to truly take flight and leave the listener in awe. Simply put, by holding back Bon Iver makes their music take on an even more magnificent sound.

"For Emma, Forever Ago" will almost certainly be in my top five or ten albums at year's end. Listening to this album front-to-back is the musical equivalent of retreating to the solace of the woods for an hour to reflect on life and take in the beauty of nature. The album is a pastoral gem, taking on the placid nature of a walk through the woods while offering enough sights and sounds to keep the journey interesting and ever-changing. It won't change your life, but it might just make you appreciate the little things in life more.

Rating: 9.0

1 comment:

sherlock said...

Crazy, I just heard about Bon Iver from a friend last week and bought the album the next day. I agree with it all.

Well written, Erik.