For Emma, Forever Ago
Herald Rating: * * * *
Verdict: Three months of solitude inspires quiet and reflective folk brilliance
This album is the musical equivalent of movie Into the Wild.
While Bon Iver (real name Justin Vernon) didn't head out into the Alaskan wilderness like Christopher McCandless did, he was holed up alone in a log cabin for three months during winter in northwestern Wisconsin, chopping wood, doing basic chores and making music.
Following the break-up of his band DeYarmond Edison, he'd needed to get away from it all.
The result: a reflective and sad, yet compelling and uplifting album made from nothing but an acoustic guitar, an occasional thud here and there, some brass, and Vernon's haunting, high-pitched harp and wail.
Bon Iver is in the musical realm of Iron and Wine, Bonnie Prince Billy or Cat Power _ but more stoic and fragile. Or perhaps more like weird and writhing New Yorkers TV On the Radio, only acoustic.
On Skinny Love, the most lively track, he thwacks away, coming up with dulcet and discordant strums on his decrepit sounding guitar; The Wolves (Act 1 and II) has off-kilter percussion going off in the background like bangers and crackers; and stunning six-minute last track Re: Stacks proves solitude can be good for the soul.
Although since this is only his first album you really hope he gets out more because you wouldn't want him to record all his albums in seclusion.
It wouldn't be good for him, and in the end it might not be too much fun for us.