Bon Iver's second album was rumored to be Letters for Marvin but was later confirmed to be Bon Iver, Bon Iver. "I brought in a lot of people to change my voice – not my singing voice, but my role as the author of this band, this project," said Justin Vernon, band leader and founder, who hired well-known players like bass saxophonistColin Stetson and pedal-steel guitarist Greg Leisz. "I built the record myself, but I allowed those people to come in and change the scene." The second album is described as an "ambitious musical departure" from the first.
The band announced the release through various media and from the official Jagjaguwar and 4AD websites, on April 20, 2011. The album was recorded in a remodeled veterinarian clinic in Fall Creek, Wisconsin, which was bought by Vernon and his brother in 2008. It was converted into April Base Studios, built mainly over the defunct swimming pool attached to the clinic. Vernon's reason for recording in the location was that "[it's] been a wonderful freedom, working in a place we built. It's also only three miles from the house I grew up in, and just ten minutes from the bar where my parents met."
On May 17, the entire album, for a short time, was accidentally made available for sale on iTunes, resulting in customers buying and leaking the album over torrents and file sharing services. The album entered the UK charts at number 4 on the first week of release.
On November 2011, the album was re-released on iTunes with short films by visual artists Dan Huiting, Isaac Gale, David Jensen, JoLynn Garnes and Justin Vernon himself accompanying each track.
Vernon has stated that each song on the new album represents a place. The song "Perth" was described as a "Civil War-sounding heavy metal song," while the song "Minnesota, WI" was described as featuring "finger-picked guitars, double bass drums and distorted bass saxophone". The closing song "Beth/Rest" is "horn heavy", and Vernon stated he was most proud of it.
Tim Sendra, of Allmusic, however, gave the album a mostly mixed review. The criticism stems mainly from the album's departure in sound from Bon Iver's previous work. He accuses the album of being too overblown due to the additional instruments and not as intimate as For Emma, saying, "He was doing just fine on his own and didn't need all those people and instruments cluttering up the air."
Bon Iver, Bon Iver won Best Alternative Music Album at the 2012 Grammy Awards, while the band won Best New Artist for their work on it. Bon Iver was also nominated for Best International Male and Best International Newcomer at the 2012 Brit Awards.