Ghostly and Ethereal, Bon Iver Finds Catharsis

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Wednesday's Pick

  • Song: "Skinny Love"
  • Artist: Bon Iver
  • CD: For Emma, Forever Ago
  • Genre: Indie-Folk
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"Skinny Love" announces Bon Iver as a budding powerhouse, not so much promising as fully formed. Sarah Cass hide caption

toggle caption Sarah Cass

Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago conjures warm memories of Chris Whitley's best music: Each sounds ghostly and ethereal, radiating otherworldly beauty, but also strangely gritty in a way that gives it heft. For Emma's best song — and, mark it down now, one of the best tracks of 2008 — "Skinny Love" finds singer-guitarist Justin Vernon alternating a ghostly falsetto with bracing, full-throated choruses that hint at looming doom: "In the morning, I'll be with you / but it will be a different kind."

Vernon is a deft enough lyricist to keep "Skinny Love" opaque, but a close listen reveals that this isn't so much a breakup letter as a suicide note ("I'll be holding all the tickets / and you'll be owning all the fines"). But as dark as it gets, the song, with its unforgettable steel-guitar hook, is too gorgeous to function as a true downer. Cathartic shout-along fodder for melancholy late-night drives, "Skinny Love" announces Bon Iver as a budding powerhouse, not so much promising as fully formed.

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This story originally ran on Jan. 23, 2008.

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