Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever Ago

There are already enough "sensitive guy with a guitar" albums to supply each of the nation's coffeehouses with its very own profoundly sad, stylishly rumpled soundtrack. But Wisconsin singer-songwriter Justin Vernon, who records as Bon Iver (a bastardized version of the French phrase for "good winter"), still manages to put his own stamp on a moribund genre with his quietly startling debut, For Emma, Forever Ago. 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. In other words, the dude sounds alone, and songs like "Skinny Love" and the striking album-closer "Re: Stacks" are constructed like intimately pained sighs, delivered in a chilling falsetto and haunted by Vernon's ghostly backing vocals. The power is in how these songs sound rather than what the opaque lyrics don't quite spell out, perhaps because some things are just too tough to say.


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