Universal acclaim - based on 27 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 25 out of 27
  2. Negative: 0 out of 27
  1. It’s seamless in its construction, poetic in its songwriting and moving in its aesthetic impression.
  2. 100
    For Emma, Forever Ago is such a hermetically sealed, complete and satisfying album, the prospect of a follow-up--of a life for Vernon beyond the wilderness, even - seems merely extraneous.
  3. It's rare to be so gushing about a debut album--yet after living with this album for a few weeks, you'll be hard pressed to find any flaws.
  4. For Emma, though only nine tracks long, is as beautiful, bleak and intimate as anything 2008 is likely to throw up.
  5. Mojo
    Isolation doesn't get more splendid than this. [June 2008, p.100]
  6. Wisconsin singer-songwriter Justin Vernon, who records as Bon Iver (a bastardized version of the French phrase for "good winter"), still manages to put his own stamp on a moribund genre with his quietly startling debut, For Emma, Forever Ago.
  7. Although For Emma, Forever Ago works best as a concise listen, as each song segues naturally into the next, tracks like 'Blindsided' and 'For Emma' quickly rise as shining standouts.
  8. For Emma is a paradigm of uninhibited closure, a gentle touch on a sad day.
  9. Vernon gives a soulful performance full of intuitive swells and fades, his phrasing and pronunciation making his voice as much a purely sonic instrument as his guitar.
  10. As good as it is, it’s clear that Vernon still has room to grow. A few songs could have used a little extra instrumental kick, and while his songs are great, you can tell he has more to offer. Keep an eye on this one.
  11. Under The Radar
    For all its apparent weightlessness, this is one heavy debut. [Winter 2008, p.80]
  12. His double-tracked voice makes these songs truly mesmerizing.
  13. While none of Bon Iver's background notes scream "new"--dissolved love affair, check; band breaks up (Vernon's freak-jug outfit, DeYarmond Edison), check--the chilling, rusty grandeur of For Emma will stop you in your snow tracks, however little it snows around here.
  14. For Emma captures the sound of broken and quiet isolation, wraps it in a beautiful package, and delivers it to your door with a beating, bruised heart.
  15. The strength is in Vernon’s ability to make a quiet, lonely album that is not boring.
  16. 80
    Vernon's voice--delicately layered and yearning--gives standouts 'Skinny Love' and 'Flume' their stunningly direct emotional impact, but his sturdy folk cords, earthy melodies, and plainspoken, pastoral lyrics prevent the album from descending into self-pity. [Mar 2008, p.97]
  17. Vernon’s voice is the showpiece here––a fragile, technically imperfect falsetto, he multi-tracks it into a shimmering, heat-giving force on each of the record’s nine songs.
  18. For Emma, Forever Ago is a heartbreaking and heartwarming album that ventures deeper than the its simple history could predict.
  19. The most subtle incorporation of drum machines, horns, and vocal effects transforms Bon Iver’s music from the quiet afterthought that characterizes much of today’s indie-folk into a sonic landscape of moods and nuances.
  20. Q Magazine
    This remarkable album's impact resides in its sound; the lyrics, when they can be deciphered, are standard she-left-me stuff. [June 2008, p.147]
  21. A sure-footed assertion of the artist's individual talents and landing it a spot among the best folk records of 2007 has to offer.
  22. Vernon’s music is stripped-down, uniformly quiet, and confessional, his clipped, cracked, Will Oldham-inspired lyrics not evidence of cabin delirium, but the work of an artist warmed by a creative glow that only pure isolation (read: freedom) can fully render.
  23. Bon Iver defiantly makes a small-scale statement on For Emma, Forever Ago, so much that if you don’t concentrate, you’ll pass this over.
  24. This writer is a firm believer that every album you pick up should be a universally accessible experience. Solitude, sanctuary and silence spawn an exorcism of sorts.
  25. The turns of phrase are usually cul-de-sacs, the flights into obscurity have bum wings, and do you really prefer, for instance, Vernon's best-in-show "Now all your love is wasted?/Then who the hell was I?" (much less "Only love is all maroon/Lapping lakes like leery loons") to this Creeley ordinaire
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 366 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 14 out of 366
  1. Dave
    Nov 25, 2009
    The only thing I can add to what everybody else has said about this incredible album is that it breaks your heart.
  2. Jun 16, 2011
    A truly cathartic masterpiece of a debut album from Justin Vernon. What started as a retreat ended in creation, that creation came in the formA truly cathartic masterpiece of a debut album from Justin Vernon. What started as a retreat ended in creation, that creation came in the form of "For Emma, Forever Ago". Like many, the first song that peaked my interest was "Skinny Love" (please don't pretend like you're "over" this track because it's popular you elitist douche) every song on the album builds and destroys, pushes and pulls, burns and freezes the emotions of a bitter heartbreak and quiet defeat of denial.I've never met a person who has taken the time to sit down and listen to this album and not love...if these people exist...I would rather never acknowledge their existence for as long as I live. Full Review »
  3. JoeH.
    Sep 24, 2009
    Best album released for years, the lyrical content is something to admire, completely compelled to listen to it at least once a day even Best album released for years, the lyrical content is something to admire, completely compelled to listen to it at least once a day even though its been out for over a year, thanks Justin. Full Review »