Bringing The World Home To You

© 2023 WUNC North Carolina Public Radio
120 Friday Center Dr
Chapel Hill, NC 27517
919.445.9150 | 800.962.9862
91.5 Chapel Hill 88.9 Manteo 90.9 Rocky Mount 91.1 Welcome 91.9 Fayetteville 90.5 Buxton 94.1 Lumberton 99.9 Southern Pines
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Ghostly and Ethereal, Bon Iver Finds Catharsis

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.

Listen to yesterday's Song of the Day, and subscribe to the Song of the Day newsletter.

This story originally ran on Jan. 23, 2008.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)
More Stories