BIG THIEF - DRAGON NEW WARM MOUNTAIN I BELIEVE IN YOU
In 2019, Big Thief released not one, but two contenders for Album of the Year. Both the ethereal, ghostly U.F.O.F. & it's sibling, the rawer, ragged ‘Two Hands' were truly exceptional examples of the group's indie-folk-rock sound. Led by the once-in-a-generation talent of singer and songwriter Adrianne Lenker (who also released two albums worth of solo material in 2020), Big Thief have, through their hunger to create and the subsequent prolificacy of their craft, gathered a seemingly unshakeable confidence, a momentum that has seen their technical and artistic abilities bloom.
So, we come to ‘Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You', the band's latest dispatch. A collection of 20 new tracks that were recorded at various locations across the United States, apt considering the breadth of ‘American' music that this sprawling, expansive double album details. Having achieved widespread critical success Big Thief could be forgiven for simply playing it safe but whether it is the upbeat, melodic indie-rock of ‘Little Things', the syncopated polyrhythms of ‘Time Escaping', the subtle heavenly beauty of ‘No Reason' or the plaintive melancholia of ‘Change', it is clear that Big Thief have, over the 3 years between ‘Dragon New Warm Mountain…' and ‘U.F.O.F.', grown tighter and become considerably more adventurous. The two distinctive qualities of both ‘U.F.O.F.' & ‘Two Hands' merge, quite brilliantly, delivering emotive hit after hit on this ambitious double album.
Back down to earth then, and sprouting forth from the fertile foundation of ‘Dragon Warm New…' you will hear the echoes of the folk-rock greats Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Michael Hurley, Karen Dalton, The Band, The Grateful Dead throughout. Aside from the incredible tunes already mentioned, further standouts include the moody, shifting atmospherics of ‘Simulation Swarm' with a stunning, restrained solo from Buck Meek, and the rootsy down-home fiddle-driven soul of ‘Spud Infinity', on which the camaraderie and togetherness of the band can be fully appreciated. An organic, lo-fi ethereality reigns supreme on the title track, a gentle folk-rock shuffle over which Lenker's vocal murmurs emerge and vanish with fascinating mystery.
There is much sonic variation all over the record which keeps an element of surprise and freshness to proceedings, ‘Flower of Blood' is a visceral subversion of dream-pop, a folky form of shoegaze, while the following track ‘Blurred View' burbles and wobbles with a trip-hop sense of rhythm, slight inflections of electronica in a Radiohead-esque blending of rock with electronic music. ‘Wake Me Up To Drive' is an unlikely fusing of Americana with electronica, which may sound jarring but works wonderfully well. The elements of risk, fun, looseness and the sheer quality of the song writing present are well worth the inevitable comparisons to the spirit of the great ‘double-albums', ‘The Beatles' by The Beatles & Dylan's ‘Blonde on Blonde'.
Throughout the album Lenker is found in astounding form both vocally and lyrically. Blessed with a voice able to communicate with child-like wonder and age-old wisdom in equal measure, supported by an exemplary band of musicians, seemingly at ease with deft invocations of the many facets of folk/blues/country/indie-rock. The songs bristle with a vivid, supernatural imagery that presents a sense of awe, humour, mystery and emotion often derived from the ‘little things' in life, magnified to a wondrous, magical scale. It's hard to believe that Big Thief have surpassed all previous expectations with their new album but they have indeed truly eclipsed their previous efforts with a timeless and beautiful work of art.
Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You
Flower of Blood
Wake Me up to Drive
Promise is a Pendulum
Love Love Love
The Only Place
Rock & Pop