No one loves quiet folk more than I, but for some odd reason on my first two distracted passes, “For Emma” felt almost too precious. On top of that, at the time I was pretty far gone into the hymn-like orchestrations of the Fleet Foxes. But standing with about a thousand swaying souls last week at the Outside Lands Music Festival on oddly typical gray but pleasant summer after noon in San Francisco, Bon Iver began to make perfect and beautiful sense.
This is largely acoustic strumming, but with layer upon layer of vocal harmony building towards these almost Pentecostal hand clapping sing-alongs. On songs like “The Wolves” it starts slow and easy enough before exploding into a beautiful percussive cacophony of restrained emotion. To call a record like this folk would be to pay them an immense creative disservice. Sure there are guitars, hushed drums, but this is so much bigger and original. On “Blindedsided” or “Re: Stacks” nothing is wasted, not a line or a strum. The nine songs here are as genuine and authentic as can be. Emma must have been quite special.