For Emma, Forever Ago
Justin Vernon, also known as Bon Iver, isn’t the first guy to head into the wilderness for inspiration, said Melissa Giannini in The Village Voice. The singer-songwriter spent three wintry months hibernating in his father’s remote cabin in northern Wisconsin, where he began to write the piercing For Emma, Forever Ago. He’s no Thoreau, but the “chilling, rusty grandeur of For Emma will stop you in your snow tracks.” Bearing a name that plays off the French words for “good winter,” Bon Iver beautifully evokes the dolor and “loneliness of a long northern winter,” said Steven Hyden in The Onion. The quiet, far-off songs tremble with “physical and emotional isolation.” Wearied with heartache and discontent, Vernon’s startling falsetto wafts in and out like a blustering, cold wind on “Skinny Love.” With its faint horns and clattery percussion, “For Emma” almost exults in trying to find closure. “Re: Stacks” is a devastating close to the album, echoing an “intimately pained sigh.” The entire album is “harrowing in its stark intimacy,” said Eric Danton in The Hartford Courant. The muted acoustics, with Vernon’s threadbare voice quivering above them, capture his lonesomeness, even when his lyrics occasionally come off as opaque. For Emma is the sound of “a man baring his soul out loud because no one else is around to hear him.”
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