It was a good winter.

Tassyn Munro

What do you get when a singer-songwriter, his guitar and a cabin encounter one another in the middle of a crisp Wisconsin winter? An uncanny conception known more commonly as Bon Iver, which is in fact inspired by a misspelling of the French ?good winter?. After Justin Vernon ?s band, DeYarmond Edison broke up in 2006; Vernon planned to hibernate in his father?s cabin for three months. Yet as the trees returned to their greenish hue, an indie sound melted the snow and the acoustically, sombre album, For Emma, Forever Ago had been created.  

This mainly solo album is a recording of six years of Vernon?s own personal troubles, heartaches, guilt, longing and love. In the secluded cabin, simplicity was the essence behind the album. Using only a basic recording set up: a Shure SM57, an old Silvertone guitar, borrowed drums and anything else lying around, For Emma, Forever Ago quickly made an impression to a range of magazines after it was self released in July 2007. Pitchfork Media even rated it one of the top songs of 2007. Then in May 2008 Jagiaguwar re-released it and it made place for itself in many Indie and globally alternative charts that year as well as the following one.

For Emma, Forever Ago, operates so securely and intensely in Vernon?s own world of snow and silence and long percolated memories that listening to it sometimes seems closer to an intrusive act than a consensual acquiescence. The acoustic chords echo off the walls of the secluded cabin and the addition of Vernon?s emotion filled voice envelope the listener and leave a mood so sombre it becomes almost spiritual. The back- to- basic ambience of Vernon?s writing allows the lyrics of song?s like Flume?s ?I am my mother?s only one. That?s enough? to be so powerful.

Skinny Love is the most well-known song on the album and is only epitomises the thoughts that plagued Vernon during his wintry sabbatical. In certain places his falsetto voice is overcome by a raw, poignant sound that pulls all the right heart strings. Blindsided, with its multilayered verses present a feel of Vernon?s subjugated mind.  The title track which consists of more than just echoed acoustics is a welcomed wholly filled resonance which creates an atmosphere of revelation at the end of the album. Although some critics complain about the audio quality of the album and that certain lyrics can?t be made out, this album has a unique sound that has the ability to move and stir emotions right from the beginning of each track.

Although it might not have started out as a good winter, Bon Iver’s wintry time in Wisconsin left indie music lovers with an album that provides great listening, no matter what the season.


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