Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"For Emma, Forever Ago" Day

(Photo above of Justin Vernon by Sarah Cass. Courtesy of Jagjaguwar.)

Me: Do you know what today is?


You: Tuesday?

Me: Right, but what else?

You: February 19th, 2008.

Me: Which means what?

You: Uh...it's the 22nd anniversary of the launch of the Mir space station by the Soviet Union?

Me: Well...yeah...but that's not what I'm getting at.

You: What are you getting at, then?

Me: Today is For Emma, Forever Ago Day! And most certainly worth celebrating.

That's right! At long last, Jagjaguwar released Bon Iver's stunning debut LP today. He released it himself in 2007, then signed with Jagjaguwar after it inspired a round of rapt attention and critical acclaim. I discovered it last month when a friend gave it to me. You can preview it on Virb (or download "Skinny Love" courtesy of Jagjaguwar), but that's just ridiculous, as I can vouch more wholeheartedly for this record than I've ever vouched for anything. Really. It's that good. You will like it. I'll probably stop by Criminal Records on my way home and pick up a physical copy (to replace my CD-R), if for no other reason than to support this artist and the label that's supporting him. Besides, his tour isn't taking him here (much to my distress), so I won't be able to buy tickets and throw money at Vernon and his band that way.

I've reviewed it for a publication (which will show March 1st-ish, I think) so I won't give away everything I think about it here. I will say, though, that he uses phrasing, dynamics, and textures better than I've ever heard. It's just a gorgeous and impactful record from beginning to end. Notes hang in the air, fizzling naturally like fireworks followed by silence. Heavy silence. Meaningful silence.

But when he's not silent, he's singing. He sings of love wasted when people fail, of omens (a black crow sits across from him, dangling his keys, even faking a toss), of what might've been lost. He's so angry sometimes, but he communicates it with such hope, such beauty. The album is mostly him, with some parts added after he emerged from his winter recording seclusion. There are tracks so minimalistic the only percussion is him tapping on his acoustic guitar, and some so grandiose it seems that not an extra iota of sound could be crammed in between the clattering percussion and wailing brass and Vernon's voice as he harmonizes with himself.

I would like to shake Justin Vernon's hand. But if I can't, I'll go buy his record. And so should you.


Rich said...

Ha! I don't think I'm in love with this record the way you are, but it is very good. :)

Juliar said...

You're just humoring me....you totally hated it, didn't you?