EARLY WORD: For Emma, Forever After

The new self-titled Bon Iver album is out today. Bon Iver plays the Tower Theater August 3rd.

RELATED:  Even by Kanye West standards, the Bowery Ballroom show last November was a spectacle. West had chosen the tiny club for a surprise concert, celebrating the release of “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” and it didn’t take long for the scrum outside to get ugly. Having tickets, which went on sale that day and sold out instantly, didn’t guarantee entry. The line stretched around the corner, and for most people, that’s as far as they got. Even those who made it inside — rappers, models, record-company executives, Diddy, Spike Lee, ordinary fans with the good fortune to have shown up very early — had to endure an hours-long wait. Finally, well after midnight, the house lights dimmed, but the voice to emerge from the dark wasn’t Kanye’s. It belonged to Justin Vernon, frontman of Bon Iver, in a black T-shirt and slightly ratty beard. The fans had come for the megalomaniac rapper, but they’d have to deal with the sensitive loner first. A moment of hesitation ran through the crowd as Vernon sang, his voice distorted by an effect that made him sound electric and huge. Kanye soon emerged, and then the more-famous guests each took their turns — Nicki Minaj, John Legend, Rick Ross. But time and again, the stage belonged to Vernon, whose eerie falsetto ran through song after song. The last time Vernon played the Bowery was the summer of 2008, a few months after the release of Bon Iver’s debut record, “For Emma, Forever Ago.” Haunted, vulnerable, purposefully naïve, the album was recorded largely in a cabin in the Wisconsin woods where Vernon retreated to heal after a series of breakups involving a girl and a band. Though it ended up resonating with hundreds of thousands of people, “For Emma” was unmistakably the work of an isolated man. MORE

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