Geeking out Re: Stacks, Bon Iver

Re: Stacks
When asked about the purpose of “Re” in the song title, Justin Vernon replied:
It’s ‘Regarding.’ People use it in letters and emails. It’s about pointing towards an idea, to amplify that this song is about the stacks. I mean, every song title does that in a way, but I just really wanted to point it out: this song isn’t the stacks, it’s about the stacks.
This my excavation and today is Qumran

Qumran is an archeological site in the West Bank, and is the closest settlement to where the Dead Sea scrolls were found. Justin is saying that this is his

Justin stated in an interview in 2008:
It’s referring to the excavations where they found the Dead Sea Scrolls. When they found them it changed the whole course of Christianity, whether people wanted to know it or not. A lot of people chose to ignore it, a lot of people decided to run with it, and for many people it destroyed their faith, so I think I was just looking at it as a metaphor for whatever happens after that is new shit.

Everything that happens is from now on
This is pouring rain
This is paralyzed

Everything that happened after he realized the truth of faith referenced to “Qumran” is not what he imagined it to be. He feels let down and like he will never be able to get out of the bad mind frame he is in.

I keep throwing it down two hundred at a time
The stacks being discussed are poker chips, and are being used as an analogy to emotion and love. Here, Justin is discussing how he keeps throwing more and more of his love “down” into whatever he is into. The somber tone shows that it just isn’t working.

It's hard to find it when you knew it
When your money's gone
And you're drunk as hell

These lines seem to be pointing toward a hopelessness associated with the ground breaking discoveries at Vernon’s aforementioned “Qumran”. He states that it’s hard to find it (love, happiness, etc.) when you’ve already “known” it (or at least thought you did). Because if what you had wasn’t already it, then what even was it? His plight isn’t helped by the fact that his resources are gone, and he’s fairly inebriated…

On your back with your racks
And the stacks as your load
In the back and the racks and the stacks are your load
In the back with your racks
And you're unstacking your load

Stacks = Your chips for any form of gambling. In this sense, it represents your lifeblood and energy you have to commit.
Rack = This is the part that I don't think the thread has very clearly dealt (no pun intended) with to this point. When you go to a casino and have a lot of money to put into your night, you often receive a "rack" of chips to make it easier to carry them around. I would interpret the notion of a "rack" in Justin's song to mean that absolutely everything's been invested into this game (both with love and his previous bands).

So when I look at the chorus, if your "rack" ends up being your "stack" it implies that you've lost absolutely everything except the carrying vessel. It's in that sense that Justin felt stripped of everything he had to offer except his physical body. That's his "load" or burden.

I've twisting to the sun I needed to replace
Changing the lightbulb for the internal universe he has created for himself. His “sun” stands for the surface mental happiness he has tried created but has no substance and has blown.
The fountain in the front yard is rusted out
Love is not flowing anymore abundantly like a fountain. His world is not mansion-like where fountains are usually found. Imagery is used to create a cold winter like atmosphere.
All my love was down in a frozen ground
Love is dead like frozen water in the ground.

There's a black crow sitting across from me;
His wiry legs are crossed
And he's dangling my keys he even fakes a toss

The black crow is depression; the depression Justin is going through at this time. The keys are the gateway to a better and happier life- but the crow holds onto them and does not throw them back. He fakes a toss- granting a glimmer of hope that things will get better- but doesn’t follow through.
Whatever could it be that has brought me to this loss?
How did he get here? Where did he go so wrong that he cannot get out of this hole?

On your back with your racks
And the stacks as your load
In the back and the racks and the stacks of your load
In the back with your racks
And you're unstacking your load

This is not the sound of a new man
Or crispy realization
It's the sound of the unlocking and the lift away

He's not experiencing (nor can any of us) experience a full catharsis. We are never free to completely leave the past behind and start anew. We'll always carry some of that baggage and there's always the chance of relapse.
Your love will be
Safe with me

Will it?

4 thoughts on “Geeking out Re: Stacks, Bon Iver

  1. I sincerely mean this when I say this, first off I love this song. Secondly I commend many people who have come to these incredible poetic conclusions, which in themselves are beautiful, as is this song. Being a song writer, I realize many things are poetic and symbolic. That said, over the decades I’ve been absolutely astounded by the more simple truths behind the why, or what the lyric was actually conveying, and sometimes it’s completely different than people think. Glenn Frey was quoted as saying sometimes the lyric is just something they won’t talk about, and it’s personal, and nobody will really ever know the true meaning. IN this case wit Re: Stacks – I saw a clip of him performing live where he was talking about being a “Poker Player”. The racks and the stacks are clearly poker references. Furthermore, gambling in itself is a serious addiction. He continuously talks about “unstacking the load” in reference to the “Stacks” in the “Racks”. Racks are what Poker chips are delivered in. Stacks are you chips. Unloading your stacks is readying, or “Losing” your money. Now think about the Black Crow sitting across from him “literally”. He’s lost so much money, he lost his CAR. The dude is like a drug pusher, taunting him with his car keys, like, want your keys back, I need the cash you owe me, or, I don’t want your car, I want it’s value. I think all this real life crap was being intertwined with his personal life, and relationship, and the toll gambling was taking on his relationship, and I believe this guy was at such great loss that he was depressed, and had lost everything to gambling. Just My Opinion. Again, absolutely love the poetic interpretations of certain lines which fall right in line with the overall themes of addiction and loss which are clearly represented here.

  2. I got dumped three days ago and i have been listening to this one on repeat ever since. Thank you for this great interpretation. It reflects a lot of how i see on myself now and my life going forward. Everything that happens is from now on right?

    1. That event, whatever it is for anyone, those life changing events that define a new reference or starting point. Sorry about your relationship, but, If this event was of such magnitude to you that “Everything that happens is from now on”, then make it a good brother. Life is so full of positive opportunity, and opportunities to move in better and more forward directions in our lives. Sometimes the life changing event becomes a blinding focus, and we can’t see the huge doors of opportunity that have opened before our very eyes. Perhaps the toxic event of being dumped is followed by the cleansing of freedom, and opportunity to improve, be better, see God more clearly, and to be cleansed and free of negative emotions, addictions, thoughts, and actions. Hang in there!

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