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(Soundbite of music, "Holocene")

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Justin Vernon wrote the songs on his first album at an isolated cabin during a Wisconsin winter, drawing on inspiration from his romantic breakups. Now Bon Iver is out with a new album this week called "Bon Iver." You're hearing the song "Holocene."

(Soundbite of music, "Holocene")

Mr. JUSTIN VERNON (Singer): (Singing) Someway, baby, its part of me, apart from me.

(Speaking) Holocene is a bar in Portland, Oregon, but it's also the name of a geological era, an epoch.

MONTAGNE: Justin Vernon's song titles draw from the names of places. Some are real, some imagined, and some a little bit of both, like "Hinnom, Texas," which might sound like a real town, but it's actually not.

Mr. VERNON: The songs are meant to sort of come together as this idea that places are times and people are places and times are people? I don't know.

(Singing) And once I knew I was not magnificent...

(Speaking) Once I knew I was not magnificent, our lives feel like these epochs, but really we are dust in the wind. You know, but I think that there's a significance in that insignificance.

MONTAGNE: Now you might be able to tell you won't find straight-forward storytelling on this album. Justin Vernon says he struggled with writing songs like he used to. Rather than write with just his guitar, this time he worked with the bass, keyboards and drums. He expanded his band and experimented with his voice. When it came to lyrics, he focused on how words sound rather than on what they mean.

Mr. VERNON: It had a really long birth. It kind of just continued to form itself over the course of three years.

MONTAGNE: The resulting sound was unexpected, and at times, surprising. Here's the last track of the album, a song called "Beth-Rest."

(Soundbite of music, "Beth-Rest")

Mr. VERNON: When I made it, I was like I love this song. I really needed to write this song. And I need it to be last on this record.

(Soundbite of music, "Beth-Rest")

Mr. VERNON: That's the last thing I want you go away with. It's innocent and I don't want it to be some '80s throwback song. I want it to be like a current I-get-lost-in-this song and I love everything about it.

MONTAGNE: Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. The song is "Beth-Rest" from his new album, titled "Bon Iver." You can hear the it at NPRMusic.org.

(Soundbite of music, "Beth-Rest")

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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