The story behind this song is almost too hip to endure. Man goes through awful break-up, man moves into Wisconsin cabin in the winter to get away from it all and record a heart wrenching solo acoustic LP about said awful break-up. And it would all be too much to endure if it wasn't so well done and like Hank Sr.'s "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" so solicitous of sympathy for the guy going through the break up. I have read comparisons to fellow bearded acoustic singer-songwriter Iron and Wine but I don't really see how that works. For one, Bon Iver's (aka Justin Vernon) stuff is much more complex musically (some of the arrangements are almost like hearing an orchestra through one channel of stereo) and his almost painful falsetto wail owes more to Eliot Smith than anyone else.
In "Skinny Love," Vernon is just letting us sit in on a heartbreaking F.U. to his former significant other. It's lyrics' meaning are not always readily apparent but the pained beauty in the final chorus tells you all you need to know I told you to be patient
I told you to be fine
I told you to be balanced
I told you to be kind
Now all your love is wasted?
Then who the hell was I?
You can feel what he's feeling (or maybe it's just me and my state of mind). He's so pissed off at this girl for doing whatever she did but at the same time he's just sad... sad about everything going wrong and furious that there's nothing he can do about it. That distinct feeling of powerlessness permeates the entire album, from the harsh winter backdrop by which it was recorded to the multiple other standout tracks it's one of the more powerful emotionally driven works of art of the year.