Bon Iver’s ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ turns 10

by Paige Ardill

Bon Iver’s ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ turns 10

Bon Iver
For Emma, Forever Ago

Jagjaguwar · February 2008

For Emma, Forever Ago is the self-released premier album of singer-songwriter Justin Vernon from 2007. After an unfortunate encounter with mononucleosis, a liver infection and a heart wrenching break up, Vernon left his hometown to spend some alone time at a hunting cabin in Eue Claire, Wisconsin. Not new to music, Vernon previously performed in a series of jazz-folk bands including Mount Vernon, which gained credibility after playing a 1998 Battle of the Bands. However, Vernon took this opportunity of isolation and abandoned his previous musical methods, focusing on abstracted melodies later set to quiet, distorted vocals, choral arrangements and a lingering falsetto. After three months, Vernon left the cabin with a nearly completed album that was later distributed on MySpace, gradually gaining credibility and landing a record deal with independent label, Jagjaguwar, by the end of the same year. For Emma, Forever Ago sold 4,000 copies in its debut week.

With social media fame on the rise in the early 2000s, thanks to the development of more and more platforms, sharing and discovering original music had never been easier. 15 years after the development of MySpace and debatably 8 years after it’s demise, MySpace’s legacy will be carried on by the hit bands (The Arctic Monkeys, Panic! At the Disco, Owl City, Calvin Harris, Bon Iver, etc.) that it spurred. Setting a precedent and promoting the development for the future of independent music, albums such as For Emma, Forever Ago inspired a new generation of musicians who need not fall privy to the structure of corporate labels and setting forth the golden age of self-production.

11 years after For Emma, Forever Ago’s release, Bon Iver has released 2 more hit albums just as experimental and haunting as the former. Forming a pathway allowing folk and alternative jazz to venture into the mainstream, Justin Vernon’s Henry David Thoreau-esc journey out into the woods unknowingly helped develop music as we know it now.

Listen to For Emma, Forever Ago here: