Monday, 5 May 2008

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago (Album)

Ladies and gentlemen please allow me to introduce the first of many posts by Crazy Dave, he has an absolutely immaculate taste in music and i have managed to persuade him to share some of it with Pier Pressure. I hope you enjoy it as much as i do - Shitronic.

I was initially intrigued by this album, after reading that it was the work of one man isolated in a hunting cabin dealing with loss through the catharsis of song. The man in question is Justin Vernon and the hunting cabin is in Wisconsin, USA, where he spent three winter months recording the album. If you are looking for comparisons, then the intimate, acoustic sound of Sam Beam’s Iron & Wine or the sublime harmonies of Elliott Smith would be a good place to start.

My initial impression was that this would be an album largely based around vocal and acoustic guitar, so what is most noticeable on the first few listens is the impressive variety of textures and atmospheres he manages to create. His vocal harmonies provide colour throughout the album, from the eerie one-man choir at the beginning of 'Lump Sum', to the building crescendo of 'The Wolves' (where he also uses a vocoder which, far from sounding incongruous, manages to convey perfectly his icy isolation). It’s these subtle nuances which demand you to totally immerse yourself in the album and it rewards you with each listen.

For anyone with fears that this would be an exercise in self-pitying introspection, it is far from it. His lyrics avoid using the usual clichés on love and loss, and instead opt for the abstract and cryptic approach. These are all delivered with his fantastic voice which ranges from a smooth falsetto to a rasping tone, and this helps to communicate any emotion that may be obscured by the lyrics (thankfully, the album does come with a lyric sleeve). The addition of brass to penultimate track 'For Emma' also aids in lifting the album.

On track 3, 'Skinny Love', we hear him dropping his adopted falsetto for the first time in favour of a louder, grainier sound. This is coupled with the album’s most direct and open lyric so far (‘now all your love is wasted? / Then who the hell was I?’). It’s a moment of release after a building tension which makes this such a great album. He repeats the trick on 'Creature Fear', where the stripped back verse stumbles gloriously into the driving rhythm of the chorus. I could go on detailing the highlights of the album, but I wouldn’t want to ruin your enjoyment as the songs slowly unravel and reveal themselves. If you have any interest in folk, indie, or just good music I urge you to spend your time and money on this album.

After months of waiting to get my hands on a copy of this album, they are finally stocking it in Resident. It’s currently as an import on the Jagjaguwar label, and I believe it will be getting a UK release shortly on 4ad. He will be playing at this years’ Great Escape festival, and I will be fascinated to see how his sound translates to a live show. He’s playing the Red Roaster Café on the Saturday, and after seeing Micah P Hinson there last year I recommend it as the perfect way to round off the festival.

Bon Iver - Creature Fear

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