One of the things I learned during my time as a daily journo is that everybody loves a list story. Whether it’s Top 10 Ways to Avoid Cancer or Top Five Films of the Year, people will read it. To all the web editors out there, it’s a guaranteed way to boost eyeball traffic, surpassed only by headlines such as Win Win Win…. (and other words that most firewalls will block.)
Being a sucker for a list story myself, I read all the Top Albums of 2008 stories and, following my hunches, purchased a couple of the most consistently critically acclaimed for my iPod. One of them strikes me as OK but not what I hoped for. The other got a lukewarm initial response but has subsequently sunk into my bloodstream. I’m starting every day with it. I like the album cover, love the title and am drawn to the story of the creative process.
Bon Iver’s ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ apparently flowed from from a band bust-up, romantic break-up and illness. Muso Justin Vernon headed off to a remote snowbound cabin for three-months’ R & R – but ended up recording an album in seclusion, playing all the instruments and doing all the harmonies himself. It’s raw. The lyrics are elusive. It’s folky and far from rocky. I really like it.
The author part of me is envious of the idea of three months locked away with nature. Silence is golden. It helps clear your head of the white noise of phones, traffic, television and other distractions. With patience and silence, creative ideas can germinate safely without being lost.
The dad part of me knows three months’s seclusion is highly unlikely.
The social part of me recalls that I once went solo wilderness camping for four days and was practically talking to trees in that short period. How would I cope with three months away?
I find myself wondering about the ‘Emma’ from the album title too. I wonder if she’s heard it and how she has responded. She’s apparently a past love of Justin Vernon’s and that gets me thinking of unrequited and lost love. It’s corny but I understand why so many poems and songs are written about loves that never eventuated. I guess it’s because the enticing, addictive possibility of true love will never be tarnished by actuality.
And I wonder about the scars we leave behind when relationships founder. ‘For Emma’ suggests Justin Vernon has collected a few.
Anyway, if you want to see Bon Iver doing their thing laid back and unplugged, check out these beautiful clips from Paris. Great stuff.