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Bon Iver


There is an urgency in Bon Iver (an intentionally misspelled rendering of French for "good winter"), aka Justin Vernon's, quivery and sinewy falsetto. Whether he's delivering a forceful wail or a nearly whispered tremolo, it never disappears. But the urgency is not only within his voice, it also finds its way into the guitar strumming, the dashes of horns, and the scattered ornaments of ambience on For Emma, Forever Ago, an album written, and mostly recorded, in the remote snowy woods of Wisconsin.

That urgency is perhaps most openly displayed in "Skinny Love," a plucky, forlorn, and passion drenched tune in which Vernon swings from sing-songy to emphatic in seconds, exclaiming at one climactic point, "And I'm breaking at the britches and at the end of all your lines." With Vernon's delivery these notes seem ripped straight from his wounded heart. That rawness is balanced by more nuanced moments, as when he ends phrases with a rolling "m-m-my, m-m-my-my-my."

In the title track this urgency becomes a little breezier, but no less important. Punctuated by twang and muted horns, the instruments seem impeccably paired with Vernon's lonely croon here.

Overall For Emma, Forever Ago is one big ache, but the kind of ache that reminds you how amazing it is to be alive. Also, the composition of these songs is deceptively simple. Repeat listens reveal layer upon layer and the overarching qualities, the ebb and flow, well it all comes together here and Vernon has managed to transcend the merely somber folk realm to a far deeper territory. • Katy Henriksen

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