Justin Vernon, aka the mind behind the band Bon Iver, is that guy who hid in a cabin during a cold Wisconsin winter and put out an album that blew us away. He’s the type who started out singing to small crowds in art galleries. His music is intimate. Unique. It is both escapist and observant.
Like all best pieces of art, Bon Iver’s songs all have stories beneath them. Here are five of my favorites.
Only love is all maroon
Gluey feathers on a flume
Sky is womb and she’s the moon
Think of sitting under the city lights. “Flume” from album For Emma tells of his regrets in being a son to his mother. The light, vibrating string sound is a bonus, too.
And at once I knew I was not magnificent
Huddled far from the highway aisle
Jagged vacance, thick with ice
And I could see for miles, miles, miles
We’re just tiny specks in the universe, “Holocene” says, but are we really? According to him, Holocene is a bar in Portland, Oregon. And a name of an epoch.
Justin Vernon explains: “It’s a good example of how all the songs are all meant to come together as this idea that places are times and people are places and times are…people? They can all be different and the same at the same time. Most of our lives feel like these epochs. That’s kind of what that song’s about. ‘Once I knew I was not magnificent.’ Our lives feel like these epochs, but really we are dust in the wind. But I think there’s a significance in that insignificance that I was trying to look at in that song.”
3. I Can’t Make You Love Me / Nick of Time (Bonnie Raitt Cover)
Turn down the lights
Turn down the bed
Turn down these voices inside my head
I found love darling, darling
Love in the nick of time
Everyone’s go-to melancholy song on “The Voice” because it’s simple and straightforward—you can’t change someone’s feelings.
This mash-up is like a scene of a bearded man coming home from a blizzard (which is how Justin Vernon looks) with longing and, eventually, healing. I prefer this version more, but up to you if you like Adele’s cover better! 🙂
2. Beth/ Rest
Our love is a star
Sure some hazardry
For the light before and after most indefinitely
“Beth/ Rest” is more easygoing. Maybe the comfort of the keyboard melody will put off some critics, shrugging it off as cheesy. But it’s a nice song for a roadtrip on a cold morning!
The Bon Iver frontman said “Beth” is for paradise: “‘Beth/Rest’ is the death, but it’s a good death. It’s good winter. But it’s a rest; it’s not this final thing. ‘Beth’ seems like this really cool name for a place you just go to be in paradise forever…And it’s a lady’s name, too.”
1. Skinny Love
And I told you to be patient
And I told you to be fine
And I told you to be balanced
And I told you to be kind
And in the morning I’ll be with you
But it will be a different kind
Who can forget that time Bon Iver headlined Wanderland 2016 and made his mark as one of the best sets performed in the festival yet?? The “Skinny Love” acoustic was unforgettable.
The song is about a love for all wrong reasons:
All the more reason to stay tuned…The band just premiered the new record live at the second Eaux Claires Music Festival in Wisconsin last August 12.