The song title comes from both a Portland bar and the current climactic era, which began some 12,000 years ago and follows on from the last major Ice Age. Frontman Justin Vernon explained to Mojo magazine: "It's partly named after the (geological) era, but it's also the name of a bar in Portland where I had a dark night of the soul."
Vernon was born and brought up in Eau Claire and still resides there. The song has three verses about three different times if his life living in the Wisconsin town. He told Mojo: "The title is a metaphor for when you're not doing well. But it's also a song about redemption and realizing that you're worth something; that you're special and not special at the same time."
This was released as the second single from Bon Iver on September 5, 2011. It was backed by a cover of Peter Gabriel's "Come Talk To Me," which was originally released in April 2011 as a limited-edition 7-inch for Record Store Day.
Bon Iver hired the Australian visual artist Nabil Elderkin for the song's music video. Elderkin has also worked with Kanye West, Frank Ocean and Common. He filmed the visual among Iceland's glacial landscapes, which features a young boy traveling through the rocky, picturesque landscapes. The clip was fittingly debuted on the National Geographic website.
Bruce Springsteen wrote "Blinded By The Light," which was a #1 hit for Manfred Mann's Earth Band. The "Madman Drummers" line is a reference to Springsteen's first E-Street drummer, Vinnie "Mad dog" Lopez.