5 of the Best Bon Iver Lyrics

Soon there will be a slight chill in the air and, if you’re anything like us, that means playing Bon Iver on repeat. Frontman of the indie folk outfit, Justin Vernon is one of the most adept lyricists of the 21st century. However, his warping vocals can sometimes obscure how much of a wordsmith he is. If you need a little help discerning Vernon’s lyrical stylings, find five of his best, below.

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1. And at once I knew I was not magnificent (“Holocene”)

Vernon is humbled by the sheer size of the universe in “Holocene” from Bon Iver. The singer/songwriter is coming to terms with his own insignificance, which turns out to be the healing elixir for his broken heart. He sums up those lofty ideas with the simple line above. Vernon has a knack for boiling down weighty topics to their basic, universal truths.

2. Then the snow started falling, we were stuck out in your car / you were rubbing both my hands, chewing on a candy bar / you said ‘ain’t this just like the present, to be showing up like this / as a moon waned to crescent, we started to kiss (“Blood Bank”)

Vernon knows how to set a scene. In the lines above from “Blood Bank,” he paints of picture clear as day. When reading these lyrics, one feels almost like a spectator stuck in the back seat of a car watching Vernon and his love interest fall deeply.

3. Who will love you? / Who will fight? / Who will fall far behind? (“Skinny Love”)

Another great characteristic of Vernon’s writing style is his ambiguity. In the outro from “Skinny Love,” Vernon asks the questions above. It’s not clear if he’s giving himself a berating or addressing his former love. Perhaps that is the point. Either way, Vernon leaves much to chew on with his lyrics.

4. With all your lies / You’re still very lovable (“For Emma”)

Though Vernon has ceded that “For Emma” is not about a specific person, he makes allusions to a former partner in the song that make that statement hard to believe. He wraps up the pain felt throughout the track in the line above. Though Vernon can often be a prosaic writer, he can also be succinct.

5. To know that you’ll leave / Don’t you lock when you’re fleeing / I’d like not to hear keys (“Beach Baby”)

Vernon has many lyrics that feel like knives on skin. The above line from “Beach Baby” is one. It’s a breakup song, but it hits so much harder than many made by his peers. He applies heartbreak to minute details like the turning of a key in a door after someone decides to leave.

(Photo by Shirlaine Forrest/WireImage)

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