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Bon Iver Collaborates With Bruce Springsteen, Hints At New Album

Back in April, during the early days of COVID-19, Bon Iver dropped a seemingly free-standing single called "PDLIF" — with its title doubling as an acronym for "Please Don't Live in Fear." With its themes of unity and hope, the song felt very of-the-moment. Given that Bon Iver typically takes three to five years between albums, and that i,i came out just last year, "PDLIF" seemed to be a one-off, with proceeds going to charity.

Now, Bon Iver just dropped another free-standing single with an acronym for a title: "AUATC," which stands for "Ate Up All Their Cake." Released with a press statement critiquing capitalism — as if the title weren't making that clear enough — the song features a throng of singers that includes not only Vernon, but also Elsa Jensen, Jenny Lewis, Bruce Springsteen and Jenn Wasner. Which means, among other things, that Justin Vernon has now appeared on songs with Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen in successive months.

With its roughly two-minute running time and heavily processed vocals, "AUATC" feels more like an experiment than a hit single. But it hints at a broader plan than "PDLIF" suggested, from a larger theme of acronym-based song titles to a teaser in the song's accompanying art: "SEASON FIVE Episode 2." (The art for "PDLIF" included the phrase "SEASON FIVE Episode 1.") Given that Bon Iver's four albums are themed around seasons — For Emma, Forever Ago was winter, Bon Iver was spring, 22, A Million was summer; and i,i was fall — those references to a fifth season are making more sense.

The new song even has a video, in which Randall Riley's dancing abilities far outstrip his ability to model proper face-mask protocols. (The thing has to cover your nose, people!)

"AUATC" is out now via Jagjaguwar.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)