There will always be that one that got away. The one relationship that you'll never forget with a person who was one-of-a-kind. Perhaps, now that it's the day after Valentine's, that one is on your mind more than usual. The best album to help you come to terms with those thoughts is this one. Bon Iver's cold, heartbroken For Emma, Forever Ago still rings powerfully, and as it celebrates it's 10 year anniversary (from being released by a major label), it shows that age has not marred the pain behind the music.
For Emma, Forever Ago is not an album that builds emotional, layered phases of instrumental sound to act as its pain. Justin Vernon's pain is all in the words. Most of the album is just him singing with his acoustic guitar, the only accompaniment being the figurative voices in his head. The album starts crushingly sadly, the somber chords of 'Flume' gloomily underlying Vernon's layered falsetto, as he sings such lines as "Only love is all maroon," saying that love is the blood after it has dried; something that once gave life but is now just left to be forgotten. The pretty atmosphere of Vernon's layered vocals that sing like a choir lead into the more energetic 'Leap Sum' before he sings of the dying breaths of a failed relationship in 'Skinny Love,' in which he cries, "And I told you to be patient, and I told you to be fine / And I told you to be balanced, and I told you to be kind / And in the morning I'll be with you."
The overarching theme of For Emma, Forever Ago is less heartbreak and more loneliness. There's an inescapable feeling of being isolated on the record, in the wake of something awful. 'The Wolves (Act I and II)' sings of the regret Vernon felt once the relationship was over, the song layering beautifully as it continues. Some songs are tragically lonely, such as 'For Emma' where the horns add to the loneliness, being that they represent his imaginary friends. 'For Emma' is about following the advice of his partner, who said they should see other people, yet he can't shake the thought of her being one-of-a-kind. It leads into closing track, the simple 're: stacks,' which has an emptiness and a sort of acceptance, ready for a new beginning.
Bon Iver's cold, heartbroken For Emma, Forever Ago still rings powerful, even though it's now running on ten years. There's a timeless aspect to the record, and one that can really be felt by everyone. It's isolated and in pain, not sure about how move forward but aware it has to. Needless to say, Justin Vernon has certainly come a long way since then. Nothing says "I've moved on" more than reissuing the record written about her, after all.
Favorite Tracks: Skinny Love, Flume, re:stacks
Least Favorite Track: Team
Rating: 80 / 100
Stream or buy For Emma, Forever Ago on Apple Music, and follow our 2018 Playlist: