Monday, April 14, 2008
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
It’s a romantic story for sure. Justin Vernon heads out to a backwoods log cabin for three months, chops wood, lives off the land and what he can shoot, spends time recording an album using basic equipment which he then releases himself, to massive acclaim. It’s the stuff that legends are made of, so there’s no wonder that there’s been a lot of interest in Vernon’s project Bon Iver, but none of the misty-eyed back-to-basics ruralistic charm would count for anything if the music wasn’t any good.
At first it might not seem very impressive. I initially thought the nine songs on his album For Emma, Forever Ago were a bit sketchy. But like most great music, give it time, and the sketches take on greater shape, depth and colour. The songs are stripped down, with only the most necessary and effective augmentations – a little flute here, a bit of mournful horn there. Most of all though, it’s Vernon’s voice, a ghostly falsetto which stands out so beautifully. It’s this voice, plus the multi-layered vocals, and sometimes the arrangements (most notably on Creature Fear) that make me think of Bon Iver as an acoustic approximation of TV on the Radio. Maybe if Sitek and Adebimpe had spent some time in the middle of a forest, howling at the moon they would sound like this. It’s a lovely, otherworldly record that given time will take root in your head and take you somewhere else. A backwoods log cabin maybe.
Download: Bon Iver – For Emma
Download: Bon Iver – Creature Fear
For Emma, Forever Ago is out now on Jagjaguwar in North America. Astute people over here may have already got their copy from superior record shops, but it gets its proper release UK on 4AD on 17 May.