[sic] Magazine

Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

Bon Iver
For Emma, Forever Ago
Review by Jamie Milton


Ok, so ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’, if you didn’t know, is the ultimate break-up album. Recorded in isolation, in a cabin under the snow in a three-month period, blah blah blah. It’s all very heartbreaking and it does indeed make the album all the more fascinating but in truth what makes Bon Iver’s masterpiece what it is, is quite simply the musical excellence that doesn’t exactly hide itself beneath the record’s tear-jerking story.

Not one single song on this record is a direct love token. The record’s devotee may be feeling warm and regretful but not one single song cries out “I loved you, I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you”. It’s instead the sound of bitterness becoming beautiful. And Justin Vernon’s addiction to this woman that left such a gap in his life is evident more so than you could ever imagine.

Musically though, no human being deserves such a tribute.

‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ isn’t sealed with a kiss and most certainly isn’t stylishly thought out – it’s instead the sound of one broken heart giving away its last ounce of love – whether Bon Iver was ever going to make such a record via. Eau Claire prior to this break-up will be a much debated detail but he was always capable of it.

For those of you who are new to Bon Iver, like I was prior to a listen of this record, all you need to picture is a thousand closing scenes to your favourite American TV Drama – when the tears are on the brink of shedding themselves, out comes Bon Iver to encourage it all. ‘Skinny Love’ is beautiful, ‘re: Stacks’ equally so, opener ‘Flume’ almost exceeding it all. The world doesn’t need Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’ or any Sigur Ros to encourage a few heartbreaks anymore. From now on, we’re utterly sorted.

I haven’t yet cried yet to this record. I’m sure many have. Maybe it’s reluctance, maybe I’m trying to be “all man”. Nevertheless this record has touched me, made me specifically, feel special, in another world completely. Never-ending bus journeys have never been so enjoyable, getting to an easy sleep has never been such a simple task.

How this record affects you though is entirely down to what perspective to enter into it from. Whether you dive into it via the sentimental, heartbroken route of Vernon or whether you are simply curious because of the countless stellar reviews it’s been receiving – it will do something to you within only a couple of listens that much is for sure.

It’s hard to pick out individual sections that make your body sink more than others. The closing few seconds of ‘The Wolves’ are particularly moving. But as is the whole 5 minute period in which ‘Blindsided’ weeps. Once Bon Iver asks ” Would you really rush out for me now?” though, the lump in your throat appears and you’re more vulnerable than ever before in the listening period. This isn’t just the ultimate break-up record, it’s a record which you pretend you’ve just broken up to. It’s the ultimate tear-shedding record.