For Emma, Forever Ago is the debut album from American indie folk group Bon Iver, initally self-released in July 2007 and then on the label Jagjaguwar in February 2008.
The album was recorded throughout November 2006-January 2007 while lead singer Justin Vernon was staying at his father's hunting cabin in Northwestern Wisconsin. He had been dealing with mononucleosis & a liver infection, as well as slowly becoming more frustrated with his songwriting & life.
Justin chose to focus on wordless melodies that he later set to words, which he thought would help to evoke a more subconscious meaning.
Whew... I was not prepared for this album. It was a very emotional gut punch that broke me. It gives that feeling of hopelessness like being left to deal with your own thoughts by yourself with no one to comfort you as you reflect on those love-filled moments in life.
The artwork appears to depict a black & white image of an ice-laden window with a brief sight of a barren tree. I'd say it likely represents the cold & lonely recording process as well as Justin's emotional state as he was isolated from the world.
Lyrically, For Emma... deals with lost love & mediocrity, and the way these lyrics are delivered by Justin are so heartwrenching and you're left sitting there, feeling the pain that he felt during the process. It's so powerful.
I was left in tears from that raw emotion in tracks like Blindsided & re: stacks, which left me drained & empty. The amount of emotion I felt with these 2 in particular struck a chord in me that just hit hard.
I do love how the track For Emma manages to stand out by providing a lighter tone that contrasts from the rest of the album being melancholic. It seems to be a comforting piece before resorting to the emotional outro (re: stacks).
The instrumentation on this is restrained but heavenly in sound. It relies mainly choral arrangements & horns, as well as Vernon's haunting falsettos that manage to send chills across my spine.
His falsettos are just so enchanting & ghostly. The same breezy feeling that I'd get from wandering in the woods on an icy December afternoon, it simply hits you hard with his raw delivery.
My only flaw, and it's not a major one either, is Team feeling like a continuation of Creature Fear. It works well with the album in full, maybe not so much individually.
For Emma, Forever Ago is simply a beautiful record; it's raw & carries a strong sense of emotion that cuts deep into your skin with it's icy, lonesome lyricism that will leave you emotionally drained for a while afterwards.
Best to be in the right mood before going into this album; it will linger with you for a while after it ends.