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.