AOTY 2021

For Emma, Forever Ago

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Critic Score
Based on 20 reviews
2007 Ratings: #13 / 682
User Score
2007 Ratings: #7
Liked by 121 people
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Lyrically, Vernon is revealed as something of a poet. These are words that are destined to be poured over and analysed


It operates so securely and intensely in its own world – a world of snow and silence and long-percolated memories – that to listen sometimes seem like an intrusive act.

The Observer

For Emma, though only nine tracks long, is as beautiful, bleak and intimate as anything 2008 is likely to throw up.

A.V. Club

The album evocatively conjures the loneliness of a long northern winter, placing Vernon's lovely songs in a distant, blurred vacuum of physical and emotional isolation.

Drowned in Sound

Although comprising only nine songs spread over less than forty minutes, For Emma, Forever Ago is one of the most captivating collections these ears have heard for some time. 

No Ripcord

These songs are raw, bold and slightly uncomfortable, but at the same time authentic and therefore extremely special, like the offspring of creativity and isolation at their most fruitful.


Vernon gives a soulful performance full of intuitive swells and fades, his phrasing and pronunciation making his voice as much a purely sonic instrument as his guitar.

Tiny Mix Tapes

Vernon’s ability to create sounds that can be felt but not described has produced a work that is both alien and deeply familiar upon first listen, exorcising the ghosts of a love that never quite left you.


For Emma captures the sound of broken and quiet isolation, wraps it in a beautiful package, and delivers it to your door with a beating, bruised heart. 


Vernon’s voice — delicately layered and yearning — gives standouts “Skinny Love” and “Flume” their stunningly direct emotional impact, but his sturdy folk chords, earthy melodies, and plainspoken, pastoral lyrics prevent the album from descending into self-pity.

The Fly

It’s timeless, anachronistic music that could have been around for centuries, just waiting to be discovered in the Wisconsin snow. Finally thawed out and brought to life, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.


With bolder steps, Bon Iver could become a voice for our generation worth getting excited over. For Emma already is.

NOW Magazine

Though the songs are generally the same – minimalist guitar, a lot of vocals, almost no percussion – it’s the brilliant verse hooks of Flame or the vocal-busting choruses of Skinny Love that make this record.

The Guardian

It revels in its sparseness, layering Vernon's high vocals and gentle guitar lines over and over like soft webs of regret.

The Skinny

This is a recording as pure as the drifting snow which bedded its creator in, and a tender testament to a lonely soul crying into the darkness.


The strength is in Vernon’s ability to make a quiet, lonely album that is not boring. Nor is it easily placed into any one genre, unless it’s music recorded in rural Wisconsin cabins.

Coke Machine Glow

For Emma, Forever Ago demonstrates the transformative power an artist wields over his environment. It's a record about space just as much as it seeks to trap and make surrounding space its own, to imbue itself with the personality that exists between notes.

The 405

For Emma, Forever Ago can quite easily be compared to being dropped in the middle of the forest with no directions back home. Put simply it sounds a lot like isolation.



Bon Iver mines fragile beauty from acoustic guitar, floating vocals, and low-fi recording.

Rolling Stone

For Emma, Forever Ago never turns into a pity party, because Vernon has a light touch, with zero interest in narrative or confessional lyrics.

makes me want human contact -5 points
this album illustrates one of the forms of sublimation. the weight of every tracks are undeniably cathartic.
Isolation. At times it seems like the only way to get out and burn away your issues. When you’re alone, the only consultant is yourself. Depending on the context, that can be good or bad. It really depends on whether you’re in pain cause of yourself, or in pain because of what others brought upon you.

For Justin Vernon in the late 2000’s, it was just everything you could imagine going wrong. His band breaking up, his relationship with a partner breaking up, and his body ... read more
"Sold my cold knot
A heavy stone
Sold my red horse for a venture home
To vanish on the bow
Settling slow."

Last year, at the time of writing this, I was living in an RV full time with my family. From the shores of Morro Bay to the peaks of Shaver Lake and, finally, a ranch in the middle of nowhere. In hindsight, despite the isolation (and surprising amount of grievance), it was a bit of a needed reset. "Leave your worries at nature's door" kind of thing. By the end, I was ... read more
justin vernon has something about him. he has an impeccable voice, and his production quality is at the top. the instrumentals give some of the slower lyrics and upbeat vibe, and creates something very special. vernon's projects have been very entertaining in my opinion, i have yet to be disappointed by him. the folk-pop theme he has is appealing and makes his projects friendly to listeners that are interested in other genres
fav tracks: skinny love, the wolves, for emma
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