The Mosh Pit: For Emma, Forever Ago

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The Mosh Pit: For Emma, Forever Ago

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With the onset of winter, I thought it fitting to talk about an album I feel truly embodies the spirit of the chilly season, that being Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. Bon Iver is certainly not an unpopular music group, and most people have at least heard of them. However, I truly feel that their debut album, what I believe to be their magnum opus, deserves much more credit than it gets.

For Emma, Forever Ago is a brilliantly simple exploration of indie folk, using innovative instrumentation and complex vocals to create a palpable atmosphere and changing mood. The entire record was written by vocalist Justin Vernon over a single winter, isolated in his father’s Wisconsin cabin with a case of hepatitis, and it shows. The chilly loneliness of the album is cathartic, and the subtle instrumentation lends it an intensely bittersweet feeling.

The entire album is markedly ambient, but that’s not to say each song isn’t engaging in its own way. The simple guitar melodies are cold and melodic, and underneath the layers of instrumentation, gentle kick and snare maintain a staccato rhythm.

Vernon employs cryptic lyrical themes and a falsetto vocal pattern to create an ethereal sound within the record. Layered vocals and light guitar strums are peppered with quiet background noises and edited audio to further deepen the sound.

Songs like The Wolves (Act I and II) start out very plain, with just voice and guitar, and slowly build and grow into sweeping, heart-wrenching melodies. On this specific song, we see innovative song structure and bizarre use of freeform drumming towards the end.

In contrast, Skinny Love has a simplicity to it that adds to its effect. With minimal instrumentation and a more traditional song structure, Vernon delivers a beautiful and minimalist piece while maintaining the reflective sadness of the album. This is a Bon Iver song that almost everybody has at least heard a snippet of, and it’s no wonder why.

The sound of the album is subverted in For Emma when a whole band of instruments is added to make a dreamy ballad of sorts, and Team acts as a quirky and atmospheric interlude. With each new song, Bon Iver continues to deliver a fresh and unique performance, maintaining a core sound without sticking to one kind of song.

In total, For Emma Forever Ago is a testament to Bon Iver and their ability to make indie folk interesting and unique. Bon Iver continues to explore new sounds with their albums, but For Emma, Forever Ago is a gem in their collection. The record is never boring, with perfect pacing and every song stronger than the last. Bright at times, deeply depressing at others, but consistently melancholy throughout, the album will create a mood in you that is hard to shake off.

If you ever find yourself with not much to do on a snowy day, pop this record on, sit back and enjoy. I promise that it will not disappoint.