For Emma, Forever Ago is the debut album from Wisconsin artist Bon Iver. It was self-released in 2007 and received wider release on the Jagjaguwar label in February 2008 (and on the 4AD label in the UK in May 2008). The album was widely acclaimed, receiving spots on critics' end-of-the-year lists, as well as several awards.


 [hide*1 History


Following his break-up with his girlfriend at the time, as well as the break-up of his previous band DeYarmond EdisonJustin Vernon, suffering frommononucleosis, secluded himself in a cabin in Medford, Wisconsin for three months planning to "hibernate." Three months of solitude resulted in the creation of For Emma, Forever Ago. "All of his personal trouble, lack of perspective, heartache, longing, love, loss and guilt that had been stockpiled over the course of the past six years, was suddenly purged into the form of song." [11][12]

All the basic tracks for the record were done by Justin Vernon in the cabin, with a few additional instruments (for example the horns on For Emma) added later; "despite its complexity, the record was created with nothing more than a few microphones and some aged recording equipment."[11]

The album was self-released in July 2007 and quickly gained attention from various music publications like Pitchfork Media. In February 2008, the album was re-released through the Jagjaguwar label with a new album cover. In May 2008, 4AD picked the album up for release in the UK and Europe.

Peter Gabriel recorded a cover of "Flume" for his album, Scratch My Back.

Track listing[edit]Edit

All songs written and composed by Justin Vernon

For Emma, Forever Ago
No. Title Length
1. "Flume"   3:39
2. "Lump Sum"   3:21
3. "Skinny Love"   3:59
4. "The Wolves (Act I and II)"   5:22
5. "Blindsided"   5:29
6. "Creature Fear"   3:06
7. "Team"   1:57
8. "For Emma"   3:41
9. "re: stacks"   6:41
iTunes bonus track
No. Title Length
10. "Wisconsin"   5:24


For Emma, Forever Ago was received very well by critics. It has an 88 rating on Metacritic, earning it the "Universal Acclaim" tag.[13] In an early review, online magazine Pitchfork Media rated it very favorably, as well as including it in their list of the best albums of 2007.[14] The New York Times called the record "irresistible."[15] May 2008's edition of the British music magazine MOJO rated the album five stars, and tagged it with the title "MOJO Instant Classic."

Robert Christgau's C-plus rating may be the harshest review of the album (compared to 26 other, mostly positive, reviews on Metacritic). Christgau comparedJustin Vernon's lyrics to the poetry of Robert Creeley, and complained that not only did the former's lyrics fall short, but that the album's "solitary meditations...lose definition faster than an angel's breath on a January morn."[16]

Criticisms of the album sometimes center around the audio quality of the album, pointing out that it is hard to make out words during certain parts of songs. However, even many of the negative reviews commented on the future potential: "If he relies just a little too much on the atmosphere and creaking spaces between notes filled by the character of the cabin in which he recorded, that's something that more recording, more songwriting will surely fill out." [17]

In Australia, "Skinny Love" was played on alternative radio station Triple J and became a hit with listeners, making the listener-voted Hottest 100 countdown of the most popular songs of 2008 at #21.

The album has sold 130,000 copies in the United States as of the charts dated January 28, 2012.[18]

The album was listed at number 92 on Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the 100 Best Albums of the '00s. They called it "One of the all-time great breakup albums, not to mention one of the era's surprise success stories." [19]

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Rhapsody US 100 Best Albums of the Decade 2009 #17[20]
Rhapsody US Alt/Indie's Best Albums of the Decade 2009 #8[21]
Mojo UK Top 50 Albums of 2008 2008 #4[22]
Observer Music Monthly UK 50 Albums of the Year 2008 #1[23]
Paste US Signs of Life 2008: Best Music 2008 #4[24]
Pazz & Jop US Album Winners 2008 #8[25]
Pitchfork Media US Top 50 Albums of 2007 2007 #29[26]
Pitchfork Media US Top 200 Albums of The 2000s 2009 #29[27]
Q UK 50 Best Albums of the Year 2008 #34[28]
Rolling Stone US Albums of the 2000s 2008 #92[29]
The Skinny UK Top Ten Albums of 2008 2008 #2[30]
Spin US The 40 Best Albums of 2008 2008 #31[31]
Uncut UK Top 50 Albums of 2008 2008 #4[22]
New Musical Express UK Top 50 Albums of 2008 2008 #24[32]
Rough Trade UK Top 50 Albums of 2008 2008 #1[33]
Rockfeedback UK Top 100 Albums of 2008 2008 #4[34]
Under the Radar US Top 50 Albums of 2008 2008 #19[35]
New Musical Express UK The Top 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade 2009 #87[36]

Chart performance[edit]Edit

Chart (2008) Peak


U.S. Billboard 200 64
U.S. Top Independent Albums 4
U.S. Top Heatseekers 1
UK Albums Chart 42
Ireland Albums Top 75 16
Belgium Albums Top 50 20
Dutch Albums Top 100 95



  • Justin Vernon: lead vocals, background vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, organ, drums, percussion, electronic drums, Mellotron, loops

Additional musicians

  • Christy Smith – drums and vocals on "Flume"
  • John Dehaven – trumpet on "For Emma"
  • Randy Pingrey – trombone on "For Emma"


  • Justin Vernon - engineering
  • Nick Petersen – mastering


  • Brian Moen – art direction
  • Griszka Niewiadomski – photography
  • Deb Sorge – hand lettering
  • Daniel Murphy – layout design
  • Gilbert Vernon – photography
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