Thursday, April 23, 2009
I originally started to review For Emma, Forever Ago because it is their latest release, but I quickly realized that all of their other songs (which include only an EP and a single song for an artist compilation) are just as amazing and that I couldn't ignore them, so I am reviewing all their songs. Whatever Justin Vernon (et al?) were doing in a cabin in the middle-of-nowhere Wisconsin, it worked.
This music is perfect. I rarely find an artist of which I adore every single song. (Perhaps it's too early for this claim? I've only been listening to them non-stop for less than two weeks.) Even the track "Woods" (from Blood Bank- EP), which I thought would annoy me after a few listens, has proven to be just as amazing and enduring as all the rest.
While For Emma, Forever Ago is mostly folky guitar with exceptionally unique vocals, select songs have a slight drum beat, but nothing too happy- you won't be hearing this one at the club. Portions of certain songs contain vocals that could be mistaken for a church hymn, but don't let that deter you- they pick up (even if temporarily) and prove to be more uplifting than going to church.
One thing that Bon Iver does so well is what I call "the build-up"- when the music has some foreshadowing, like there is a bridge or chorus coming up, and the music gets more and more intense. Sometimes it's for just a couple of seconds, but other times the entire song seems to be in & out of the build-up... truly beautiful, and it evokes so much emotion.
Whether you see it as a downfall or not (I certainly don't), their tempo range isn't horribly varied. "Re: Stacks" is very Nick Drake-esque, while "Lump Sum" and "Team" are as upbeat as they get... still very placid. Each song sounds different for Bon Iver, unlike some bands that you can't differentiate between tracks.
Probably my favorite (or at least current) track of Bon Iver's is "Blood Bank" (from the Blood Bank EP). The song undulates between an medium-beat bass drum tempo and bare vocals with bare guitar & chords. But the song is anything but bare. How can so few sound sources captivate so well? Another fave is from the Dark Was the Night artist compilation called "Brackett, WI." It's a mellow mix of harmonizing vocals and gee-tar... and it's perfect. All tracks on For Emma, Forever Ago are amazing, but I can see "Flume," "Skinny Love" and "For Emma" being top downloads.
Surely you will find at least one Bon Iver track on my soundtrack this year!