Monday, February 14, 2022

Big Thief Spin Magic In ‘Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You’

Into the belly of the beast they go - only this beast is friendly and warm and magical. Big Thief’s newest album ‘Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You’ is a jubilant masterpiece. At a hefty twenty songs, this newest creation is something for listeners to sink their teeth into and come out of feeling refreshed.

While this album perhaps is not as holistic as some of their other works, it makes up for it in its variety and joy. Adrianne Lenker - lead singer and writer - chooses to draw on everything as inspiration: from hairdos to Book of Creation myths, to the ever-present natural influences that saturate their writing. This album quite literally has something for everyone.

Change’ is the opening number of this album – apt in many ways and not least of all because it seems to signify a new era of exploration for this band. With a warm feel from the offset, Lenker crafts beautiful lyrics around the pain of change. This is one for those who are looking for the more familiar Big Thief sounds, as is ‘No Reason’ or the sweeter melancholy songs such as ‘Sparrow’ and ‘Certainty’.

Big Thief, however, transcends genre, especially in this new offering. Certainly providing laugh-out-loud moments, songs such as ‘Spud Infinity’, ‘Blue Lightning’ and ’Red Moon’ are heavily saturated with country influences. In fact, they’re almost overly saturated with country influences, making use of fiddle and jaw-bone to paint pictures of old Western dust-bowl towns. However, what can be initially dubbed as ‘too-much’ is actually quite skillful. Lenker crafts lyrics almost reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s more elusive works.

This newer country sound also allows for new rhythmic patterns, at times echoing spoken-word poetry more than classic melody. And, like Dylan, the lyrics are always clever albeit sometimes a little wacky. This is especially true in ‘Spud Infinity’, the third verse being quietly brilliant in and around its quirkiness.  Also allowing space for indie rock, ‘Little Things’ or ‘Flower Of Blood’ bring in heavier guitar as a nice antithesis to Lenker’s softer vocals.

Big Thief rarely sticks to a classic format for their songs. If the melodic progression is what one expects it to be, then the lyrics certainly aren’t… or there is a note that hits differently or an unexpected percussive line. Tracks such as ‘Time Escaping’ and ‘Blurred View’ are beautiful examples of interesting percussive moments. It seems they have found a perfect balance between playing around and playing well, sometimes even reminding of Ben Howard or Jack Garratt with their more experimental songs.

That being said, at their root, they are still Big Thief – a band almost unparalleled in crafting a great indie folk song. Imagery is a real through-line in all of the group’s work; there is not a single song that does not paint a picture. Whether it’s the image of a dusty country plain, one of a blue feather catching the light, one of a coffee pot on green cabinetry, or one of warm blonde hair in morning light – every image is clear. It really is quite a feat of engineering to give the listener such an exquisite experience in tracks under six minutes and sometimes in as little as a minute and a half.

This is partly to do with the lyricism Lenker provides but not entirely down to it. Every element that goes into each individual track is there for a reason. There are instrumental moments that jar, there are moments that make one’s heart swell, there are moments that break one’s heart, there are moments that convince the listener that the breeze Lenker sings about is not some abstract thing but rather that they are the breeze. Every element of this album is executed well – every single one.

Ultimately, however, the word that comes to mind when listening to this album is magic. Pure magic. Listeners should look to the title track ‘Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You’, ‘Promise Is A Pendulum’, or ‘Simulation Swarm’ for moments that defy description.

"What should we do now?" – this is the final question posed at the close of the album’s final track ‘Blue Lightning’. What indeed. Well one thing is for sure, anyone asking themselves this question should have only one answer:

Listening to ‘Dragon New Mountain I Believe In You’, available on all streaming platforms now.


Chloe Boehm


Image: ‘Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You’ Official Album Cover 

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