Album of the Month: Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You
Big Thief’s latest album has been a long time coming. Not that they need any rush, having released two critically acclaimed albums in 2019. Even with that commendable effort barely in the rearview mirror, the band hatched plans for their next collection, this one recorded in four different locations across the country. After pandemic delays (and three of the four band members releasing solo albums), the New York quartet’s seemingly endless creative well has produced a double album, Dragon New Warm Mountain I believe in you.
Just as its title suggests, the album is rambling, fantastical and jam-packed. The lion’s share of Dragon is the group’s characteristic folk rock sound, here even more crystallized than before. The band’s warm acoustics and tight-knit harmonies bring the campfire imagery on the album cover to life in songs like “Certainty” or “Red Moon,” complete with grandma’s screams and all. Moments like this permeate the album, from the hands-on presentation as the closing take of “Change,” to the album-ending studio chatter on “Blue Lightning,” the twenty-song set features often. like a document of the group at work, a community setting where someone was just there to capture some magic between friends. A variety of moods outside of the rustic setting are scattered throughout Dragon so, from the lo-fi, drum machine-driven ode to life behind the wheel, “Wake Me Up To Drive,” to one of my personal favorite tracks on the album, the fuzzy and electric” Flower of Blood”. Stylistic changes aside, what remains a constant in these songs is singer/guitarist Adrianne Lenker’s phenomenal work as a lyricist, by turns intimate, surreal, cutting and mystical.
The most remarkable thing about the album is how it avoids the scourge of the double album lull; nothing feels like filler, everything feels in place, and the continuity between sounds is natural, with the band gracefully morphing with each scene change. During its eighty minutes, Dragon New Warm Mountain I believe in you is the sound of Big Thief firing on all cylinders, but with a hard-earned ease through deep musical connections and kinship. I’ve seen several claims on the release of this album that Big Thief are the next “great American rock band”, and five albums, I think this one seals the deal.
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