With my recent education on cottagecore, I made a realisation that should have been obvious from the start: Bon Iver is the man responsible for all this.
It was right in front of my eyes the whole time. Justin Vernon literally recorded his debut album in a remote Wisconsin cabin. From there, he spread his influence to artists like Taylor Swift, who took the gentle folk acoustics and pastoral imagery that Vernon pioneered and made it mainstream with Folklore and Evermore. Now you can see traces of him everywhere, from clothing brands to movies with ridiculous titles. The man might not be an easily recognisable face, but he’s had a lasting effect on a sizable cultural movement.
Although I still prefer the far superior moniker of “grandmacore” that fits the whole “baking bread and watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs next to an open wood fire” aesthetic, there might be a single moment to pinpoint when the subculture went supernova: ‘Skinny Love’.
Easily Bon Iver’s most popular song, ‘Skinny Love’ truly broke through when it was covered by British singer Birdy in 2011. Birdy’s piano balladry is right in the folky sweet spot that ‘Skinny Love’ requires and, for some reason the sparse, ornate recording just connected with the public, ascending to the top 20 in the UK Singles Chart and kickstarting the indie folk boom that artists like Fleet Foxes and Hozier rode into the stratosphere.
Among the numerous covers of ‘Skinny Love’ you can now add Bartees Strange, who gave his take on the tune for Sirius XM.
You can tell from the recording that Strange has a deep connection with the song. “I just fucking love Justin Vernon so when they said I could do this one I was like hell yeah. I always try to do cool arrangements of things but this one is just so good on its own. Such a special tune—so glad I could do it,” the artist wrote on his Instagram. Bartees mainly sticks to the original’s arrangement, channelling the haunting falsetto that permanently implants itself in your brain.
Check out the cover of ‘Skinny Love’ down, below.