For twenty songs, Big Thief enchant listeners with their most ambitious, and most intimate, record yet with ‘Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You’.
It’s been stated so many times but it’s a hard fact: Big Thief are one of the great bands of this generation. From their breakout debut Masterpiece to their pair of records released in 2019, Two Hands and U.F.O.F., the Brooklyn-based quartet have created some of the most captivating and spellbinding music of the last decade. Every time the crew of Adrianne Lenker, Max Oleartchik, Buck Meek, and James Krivchenia releases new material, it’s something to pay attention to. An adventurous band at heart, they return to their roots while expanding upon them in incredible ways on Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You.
There’s an intimate warmth to many of the songs on Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You. The opener, “Change” sets the tone quite nicely, featuring just Lenker’s voice over guitar with gently brushed drums and the occasional little electric guitar or harmonies. This sound is a staple within Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You’s twenty tracks. Songs like “Certainty” and “Sparrow” have a warmth that can only be found on a record like this one. The latter, in particular, is a stunning, dark singalong that paints vivid biblical imagery.
There are also some songs that are more filled out musically. On “Little Things”, Meek’s untethered guitar bubbles under Lenker’s voice, which is ethereal, Buckjust bubbling under the surface. “Flower Of Blood” has the biggest sound on the record. Each instrument is layered in reverb, including Lenker’s voice. Booming drums and a loud guitar solo sharply cut the record right in half. “No Reason” is also a huge track but for different reasons. Its harmonies, poppy composition, and the flute present throughout make it one of the record’s best tracks.
The cover of Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You is a drawing of some animals singing at a campfire. No songs capture that feeling more than in its loud country-style stompers. “Spud Infinity” being the first, complete with fiddle and a joyous feel radiating from start to finish. Those vibes continue on the big singalong “Red Moon”, which ends with a fun whistling section that’s full of infectious energy. “12,000 Lines” isn’t a stomper, but features so many of the qualities of these tracks, including a fantastic duet with Lenker and Meek.
There are also some stunning moments to be found. “Dried Roses” is a total knockout that sees Lenker accompanied by an acoustic guitar and the occasional fiddle. “Promise Is a Pendulum” sounds more like a demo than a final recording, but it captures an intimacy that a more produced version never could.
There are also songs that can’t be classified at all. “Time Escaping” is full of weird sounds and stranger percussion, and it’s incredible. “Heavy Bend” takes a lot of the sonic qualities of Big Thief’s softer songs but puts a beat that’s more reminiscent of hip hop. Lenker’s vocal delivery adjusts to match. “Blurred View” has a darker vibe than most of the record with distortion on guitars and Lenker’s voice adding to the sinister feel.
It can be easy to lose interest in an album that’s an hour and twenty minutes long, but down the stretch the record’s final four songs keep things fresh and engaging. “Simulation Swarm” is one of the record’s most striking tracks, almost hypnotic while lyrics flow out of Lenker like a waterfall. “Love Love Love” is a rocker with some of the best guitar moments on the record. “The Only Place” is just Lenker and guitar, making it the perfect penultimate song. Everything comes to a close with “Blue Lightning”, one last folk stomper before everything comes to close with someone asking “Okay, what should we do now!?”
Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You is a long record. It’s also an ambitious one, but its charming qualities make the time spent with it more than worth it. It never strays far from its heart musically. Lyrically, it’s as personal and engaging as we’d come to expect from Big Thief. In a time where it seems like so many bands are taking on indistinguishable overproduced nostalgic sounds, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You is a refreshing treat. It’s one of those albums people will be talking about for a long, long time.
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