Friday, June 17, 2011

Jack Reflects on Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago (2007)

With Bon Iver's self-titled sophomore album officially coming out next week, I felt it'd be appropriate to devote a post or two to this great artist.  If you don't know, Bon Iver is Justin Vernon. (I was never really clear if it's a stage name or pseudonym.)  After a particularly tough time in his life, he retreated to a cabin in the woods and wrote the album, For Emma, Forever Ago.  It's a pretty cool story, but I'd just be plagiarizing wikipedia if I went into more detail. (...Can you plagiarize  wikipedia?)  It was released in the US on February 19, 2008.  And it's amazing.  For Emma, Forever Ago is in my top 5 desert island records and the subject for today's post.  (More after the jump)

My first real exposure to Bon Iver came on April 20, 2009.  I know this because according to imdb, that is the day that the Chuck episode, "Chuck vs. The Colonel" aired.  I've always been a sucker for good musical moments in a scene, and Chuck ALWAYS seems to find the perfect song.  (Best music on television, folks.)  The scene below is, for lack of a less ridiculous word, magic.  Quick backstory: for the first three seasons, Chuck and the hot blonde, Sarah, went through an intense, "Will they/won't they?" relationship.  It's early Jim and Pam chemistry but with overt sexiness and explosive, life-threatening danger.  And drama.  Lots of twisty-turny drama.  Watching them run from their obvious attraction was excruciating (but fun) for the viewer.  In the following scene, they're hiding from the government and share a bed in a motel.  They fell asleep on opposite sides.  As morning comes and they wake up, we hear Bon Iver's "Creature Fear."  This was the first time that their feelings just exploded, and the song perfectly conveys a moment of intimate, domestic sweetness turning into a fiery, unfettered passion.

It's prolly not as effective if you hadn't closely been watching and waiting for those two kids to get together, but it's one of my very favorite scenes of television.  I must've rewound that moment hundreds of times.  The next day, I bought For Emma, Forever Ago and a Subway sandwich (As it was what you do to "save Chuck.")

The album would come to mean more to me than the album with the song from Chuck.  I listened to it religiously.  Around that time, I went through my own rough patch that culminated with the loss of a 10 year friendship with a girl whom I was crazy about (my "Emma").  For Emma, Forever Ago was the album that helped me find me peace of mind.  It was the album that showed me that peace of mind and steadiness was out there to be had.  (Trust, that's as personal as I'm gonna get.  I don't think we want this to be"one of those" kinds of blogs.)

It's not a sad album.  There are no sad songs, really.  There are moments of desperation and pain (the pleading of "I told you" on "Skinny Love") and resentment ("Go find another lover to bring, to string along" on "For Emma"), but it's ultimately an album about healing and moving on.  Whenever someone I know is feeling down, it is the album I recommend.  It's not an upbeat, happy album either.  But in the end, you're filled with a different kind of strength.  And solace.  With that in mind, I end the written portion of this post with the last words of the album from "Re: Stacks":

"This is not the sound of a new man or crispy realization.
It's the sound of the unlocking and the lift away.
Your love will be
Safe with me."

Below are some of my other favorites...

"I Can't Make You Love Me" (cover) on Jimmy Fallon

"Skinny Love" live on Jools Holland - not the best technical singing, but the emotions he puts in it are amazing.

"For Emma" (a capella) in a hallway

And if all goes according to plan, there should be an album review for Bon Iver in the days to come.

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