Music at Mars Hill is a weekly column by Luke Larsen that seeks to find God amidst the newest trends in both mainstream music and independent music.
Pitchfork recently released an interview with Bon Iver, the indie folk-pop group headed by mastermind Justin Vernon. His sophomore album, Bon Iver Bon Iver, came out on Tuesday to critical acclaim (go pick it up!). Rather than just plug his new album, however, for this week’s column I want to take a look at a segment of the interview that takes an interesting view on relationships and art.

The story behind his debut album, For Emma, Years Ago, has been surrounded in myth and legend since its release in 2007. This simple story of a heartbroken singer-songwriter retreating to a winter cabin to contemplate life and write an acoustic album has garnered a large number of different interpretations by now. His explanation of “Skinny Love”, the single off that album, offered some interesting points of reference for where his new album and his view on relationships comes from: “To say that ‘Skinny Love’ is about Christy would not be entirely accurate. We dated and she’s an incredibly important person that I lived with for a long time, but it’s about that time in a relationship that I was going through; you’re in a relationship because you need help, but that’s not necessarily why you should be in a relationship. And that’s skinny. It doesn’t have weight. Skinny love doesn’t have a chance because it’s not nourished.”

I find this to be a particularly interesting statement about the song and relationships in general. From what I’ve heard of Bon Iver’s newest album, his sound is coming from a fuller and heavier emotional place. The swirling keyboard textures, electric guitars, and saxophones (yup, you heard right) of the new album create an atmospheric sound that finds Vernon more comfortable in his own shoes both musically and personally. He’s still as emotionally vulnerable as ever, but now has a sound that expresses a deeper level of confidence that is engrossing to listen to.

Later on in the interview he states that being a complete person “has a lot to do with realizing that, no matter how much you care about a person, you have to be able to know that you can sit down at night and be happy with who you are without that person.” Aside from acknowledging Vernon’s relentless emotional honesty, statements like these bring up some points of interest for us as Christians. What should we be demanding of each other in our relationships? If we believe that Christ is ultimately our all-encompassing love and satisfaction, how can we make sure our love for each other carries the self-sacrificial weight it should?