The horn-filled opening track from indie folk band Bon Iver's eponymous second album commemorates the Australian city of Perth. According to the band's founder, Justin Vernon, the song was inspired by a "rejuvenating experience" he had while the band were on tour there.
Bon Iver consists of 10 songs, each of them named after or describing a place. Vernon explained to UK newspaper The Guardian: "We have these intense relationships with our places, and that's loosely what the record is draped over," he said. Vernon then explained that not all of the places are geographical locations so much as sentiments or states of being. "I could go on and on and on about how we use the word 'place' in so many different ways," he said. "About how somebody might ask you 'Where you at?' And they're not asking where are you sitting, where are you living, they're asking: 'How are you doing?'"
Vernon sees the album as one coherent piece, with "Perth" representing the beginning or birth and "Beth/Rest" the ending or death.
Justin Vernon wrote this song after director, Matt Amato, learnt of the death of his best friend, actor Heath Ledger, while he was shooting a video at Vernon's parents' house. Vernon told Rolling Stone: "So I've got this guy [Matt Amato] in my house whose best friend [Heath Ledger] just passed away. He's sobbing in my arms. He can't go back to L.A. because the house is under siege. Michelle Williams is calling my parents' phone. All this stuff." Vernon added to Clash Music: "And his best friend was from Perth. It just sort of became the beginning of the record. And Perth has such a feeling of isolation, and also it rhymes with birth, and every song I ended up making after that just sort of drifted towards that theme, tying themselves to places and trying to explain what places are and what places aren't."
Vernon told Q magazine this was the last track completed for Bon Iver, delaying the album mastering by an extra fortnight in order to make it perfect. The night he recorded the final vocal alone in his studio, listened to the playback, broke down and sobbed.