Album Review: Big Thief’s ‘Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You’

You know a band is good when their sound is effortlessly alluring. When their music isn’t just singing with strums of guitar, but a cosmic translation into feeling and heartache. That’s Big Thief to me; the Brooklyn-based band mostly recognisable from their 2016 track ‘Paul’. Their latest album ‘Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You’ is a puzzle of love, grief and electric romantics, enwrapped in visceral prose and the silky vocals of Adrianne Lenker.

The record was produced over four locations – upstate New York; Topanga Canyon; the Colorado Rockies; and Tucson, Arizona – with four different engineers. Inherently Big Thief in its masterful sense of production and emulation of melancholic folk, the band strive to blur the lines of musical coherence, mixing and matching folk genres and fully bleeding into each tune unapologetically.

Remnants of Lenker’s solo work are interwoven through every track, consisting of metaphorical takes on nature and love and how they’re practically the same thing. Opening track ‘Change’ enchants with soft instrumentals, embracing change as integral to life as nature, likening it to ‘the wind’, ‘the water’, ‘the leaves’ and ‘butterflies’. ‘Time Escaping’ is an example of the band’s new experimental endeavours, a haunting combination of rough strings and breathy vocals that leaves you feeling strangely unsettled. ‘Spud Infinity’ and ‘Red Moon’ further exhibit the venture into foreign musical territory, both inventive renditions on country-folk packed with the sounds of a jaw-harp and fiddle. Contrastingly, songs like ‘Simulation Swarm’ and ‘No Reason’ mirror prior albums, warm and mellifluous to the ear, whereas ‘Flower of Blood’ plays like an angsty nineties tune, hints of grunge and shoegaze. There’s something new on every track, though they all somehow fade into each other seamlessly.

Big Thief thrives in juxtaposition. They’ve mastered the ugly beauty in not holding back, both lyrically and instrumentally. The record’s stellar track, the whimsically-convoluted ‘Little Things’ contrasts triumphant, overbearing guitar and drums with Lenker’s high-pitched, soft vocals. The climax, a vomiting of the bliss and venoms of love, captures the vulnerability Lenker pours into her lyrics, human and real. 

More than an addition to your breakup and slow mornings playlists, Big Thief carefully construct a beautiful mess in this new record. It’s emotional, unique, honest and wistfully experimental, a poetic rumination into our own shadows, heartbreak and the optimism that can be found in the swaying of a beautiful tree or a cloudless sky. It’s Big Thief and I love it.

Article written by Savannah Selimi

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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