REVIEW: Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

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Jagjaguwar (VIRB) is quickly becoming my favorite record label. Not only is the Bloomington based boys putting out stellar albums by Ladyhawk and Black Mountain, they're also re-issuing For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver (VIRB, Wiki) on Feb. 19.

Bon Iver is the stage name of Justin Vernon, former member of DeYarmond Edison an Eau Claire, WI based indie rock back. So, the band broke up and Vernon took off to a cabin in the middle of winter to sleep the whole thing off. What emerged from the cabin is For Emma, Forever Ago - a heart-wrenching album of acoustic goodness, which Vernon self-released in 2007 - gaining some Pitchfork ups as well (review).

Jagjaguwar's re-issue doesn't do much besides slap some new art on the album and send Bon Iver out on a tour with Black Mountain, but then again it doesn't have to.

For Emma, Forever Ago is one of those albums that gets better with every listen. It's a homespun sound that is filled with swirling vocal harmonies, droning acoustic guitars, and lyrics which are all about a struggle for rebirth and nostalgia. For those of you thinking that this is essentially, a Wisconsin-based Elliott Smith, think again. Bon Iver has more in common with the quiet moments of the Jayhawks, where the harmonies work their way around a guitar line like ice growing up your car window. It's a deceptively simple sound. Listen to the free mp3 for standout track "Skinny Love" here.

It's easy to throw guys and acoustic guitars into simple boxes labeled Nick Drake. But Bon Iver shows the beauty that solitude brings and the wonderful variations that can arise because of it.


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