There's nothing in "For Emma" that you can't tell from the first 30 seconds of listening to it. I don't think it's a bad thing, however. Justin Vernon's soulful, chilly vocals have an almost haunting quality to them. The acoustic guitars are graceful and fluid; vocals are essentially instruments in this album as well, making up for the lack of diversity in the instruments.
This album's simplicity might be the most beautiful thing about it though. There's nothing too complex, definitely nothing too loud, but something very present and very alive in these songs. The premise of these songs, needless to say, is that Vernon's band and relationship in North Caroline ended and he went in to the woods in Wisconsin and recorded this. The result of heartbreak and going your own way, like usual, great music.
Vernon's soulful vocals and thoughtful words are the centerpiece of nearly every song. "Flume" and "Lump Sum" are soothing with clean, soothing melodies. "Skinny Love" breaks the soothing trend. His vocals in this song have passion in their tone, you can feel his sadness and possibly madness in his tone, in the chorus especially. Another nice feature in this album is that some of the songs act as songs and scenes in a play, as if this album were also a play. "Wolves" and "For Emma" have narrative parts as well as dialogue, a truly interesting aspect of his songs. "Wolves" also introduces the choir of Justins that lead the songs. Like I said, his vocals act as instruments in this album, along with frail, percussive guitars, and some percussion. "Blindsided" is perhaps one of the strongest tracks on the album. It has that half hollow, half filling aspect, but he has so much soul and feeling in his words. "Creature Fear" adds to the soothing, and the choir of Justins comes back; the harmonies that he organizes are gentle and beautiful. It starts out soothing, but it picks up and carries on the same soul as "Skinny Love". "For Emma" is another truly beautiful track. In this song, you are put in the place of Vernon and you almost see the scene of the break up happening. Soooo much soul. "Re: Stacks" is a very unique song on the album. Instead of the grimaced melancholy soul, it's nostalgic and it shows potential of finding happiness.
Obviously, adjectives to describe this album are: soulful, melancholy, heartbreaking, descriptive, but still very beautiful. From the choir like vocals, to the triumphant horns on "For Emma", this album has a lot to say in only 9 songs. Needless to say, I'm excited to see where he's going to go with this, if he follows the final track on the album, I can only assume he has a long, bright future of making beautiful music.
Key tracks: "For Emma", "Blindsided"
Listen if you like: Fionn Regan, Fleet Foxes