Big Thief - Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You
Feb 11, 2022
89
"Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You" synthesizes everything we need to know about Big Thief, blending it with new perspectives on the future in an album of ultimate dedication. It's an introspective journey through America as heartwarming as it is poignant, where the landscapes are the main influences and actors of this wonderful story.

Big Thief is one of my contemporary bands of heart since a few years already, it is typically the kind of music that seduces me, touches me, transports me, makes me escape. Formed in 2015 at the Berklee School of Music, the Brooklyn-based quartet manages to create a muffled Indie Rock of folklore, introspection, and deeply human things. It's so easy to identify with this band, friends of the breathtaking singer/guitarist/songwriter Adrianne Lenker, brilliant guitarist Buck Meek, bassist Max Oleartchik and drum-mer/architect James Krivchenia, who tell you in song about the simple things in life, whether it's the mo-ments of pure happiness, love, memories or the hardships one may go through. The term "simple" may seem reductive or pejorative in some cases, but it conveys the idea that happiness and love can sometimes be found in a few details that make your life more enjoyable. I think Big Thief embodies this idea that with simple things it is possible to create something extraordinary. This new album "Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You" follows the same principle. End of the review! I'm just kidding. But you get the idea. In short, Big Thief is a band that is both hyper active since its creation but also sensational by their already impressive discography. Especially if you add to that Adrianne Lenker's solo projects or Buck Meek's. Today Big Thief release their 5th album, the previous ones were all crowned with important critical success. The latest U.F.O.F. and Two Hands released a few months apart in 2019 complemented each other in their distinct musical timbres, while proving the Brooklyn band's fantastic ability to be so productive. Big Thief is constantly touring and recording. This is the kind of band whose creativity and imagination are in spades for our enjoyment. In fact, even during the pandemic, when tours were suspended, Lenker gave us a remarkable solo album "Songs" (2020). That's how impressive the resources of this band are.

Frankly, you only have to look at this new opus "Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You", almost entirely written and produced during the pandemic period, which includes 20 songs for 1 hour and 21 minutes to understand the phenomenon. Nothing is stopping it. The craziest thing about it is that even on such a long and ambitious format, Big Thief manages to treat us from start to finish to give us a treasure of an album. Taken from a phrase in Lenker's solo song "Anything", Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You is really a "double album" concept that focuses on the idea of traveling to multiple destinations to perfectly capture the band's full range of music. All this was thought and produced by the drummer Krivchenia himself. Big Thief has always liked to isolate theirself in a specific place to compose and think about an album. For example U.F.O.F and Two Hands are distinguished by the essence of sound that the band produced in two different places. The first one was brighter, the second one rougher. Well, "Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You" goes even further in the idea since it includes 5 different recording locations and different sound engineers. So we are clearly facing the most ambitious album of the band, a complex bet to succeed. However, the immense talent of this band, pushed by the masterly writing of its leader Adrianne Lenker have perfectly overcome this challenge with a particularly delicious album.

"Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You" is well on its way to becoming Big Thief's best album, not only because it's the perfect synthesis of the band but also because it sounds like the absolute consecration. Here each member of the band manages to bring out the best in themselves individually to make the band even stronger collectively. We don't change the DNA of the band, we take the same base, we mix the whole and we perfect it to the maximum. One thus finds all the nomenclature Indie Folk/Rock which sometimes goes astray towards the Americana, sometimes towards some psychedelic nuances. So far, nothing abnormal. Besides, the fans of the band will be delighted, while some reluctant should be finally conquered by this formula. Honestly, it's quite incredible what they've achieved. There are 20 songs, all animated by eclecticism and diversity which makes the experience as crazy as impressive. It goes in all directions but strangely enough you feel a certain logic, a certain harmony between each different segment. I think that's the hardest thing to achieve on an album, to manage the richness of the content without the homogeneity or the coherence being impacted. For the time being, Big Thief manages to set up a simple formula, like a kind of collection of songs that you sing by a campfire (to make a nod to the cover). Even the cover remains simple and uncluttered, in order to create precisely this feeling of accessibility.

The album starts with "Change", accompanied by a "Okay" from Lenker as if she was about to perform a live show. One finds directly all the finesse, the intimacy, the vulnerability of BigThief, in a very rooted Indie Folk/Americana. The moving poetry of "Change" catches you directly, without detour for 5 minutes of absolutely poignant ballad, where Lenker spreads all her sadness. The record has just started 5 minutes ago and you already want to pause to take a breath because it was so dense, very taking. For "Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You", you have to have a strong heart, it's particularly emotionally intense from start to finish. "Time Escaping" reverses the traditional aesthetics very reserved for a psychedelic demonstration more grandiloquent. One is then gently carried away by the exotic adventure that this song proposes, before succumbing to the angelic power of the aerial choruses. It seems to me by having heard a song of Big Thief sound like this one since I follow the group. We then switch back to Honky Tonk fantasies in "Spud Infinity", marked by the sound of the Jew's Harp played by brother Noah Lenker. It's a particularly fun song, both kitschy and catchy. "Certainty" gets lost in the endless spaces of the Alt-Country. It's like being transported to the middle of a desert, the red sand hit by the sun, the cacti as the only vegetation. It's crazy how you feel like you're living this moment in real life, Big Thief has always shined in this ability to create immersive songs and it's even more the case on this new opus, since we understand the different destinations used to produce this record. "Certainty" also illustrates the fact that this kind of song is not necessarily what Big Thief knew how to do best, but beyond the individual aspect, we feel this pure and thrilling soul that amplifies the authenticity and beauty of it.

Speaking of beauty, don't miss the superb eponymous song, an absolute delight. Honestly I found my favorite, it's like climbing on a little cloud and walking in the most beautiful corner of the world. You can't get much catchier than this. It's also the perfect song to start a day. "It's a little big magic". Sometimes you just have to listen, to understand Lenker's immense talent (which you already knew but which continues to hit you every time) to build endearing melodies, juggling words and intonation in a poetry always so brilliant. The delightful "Sparrow" is the example that illustrates it all. That's never all, the almost tortured instrumentation of this song shows a deep melancholy. In a completely different register, "Little Things" pays homage to the Jangle Pop of the 80's like a time capsule that we go through for almost 6 minutes. Lenker tells a naive and uncalculated love story to show all the delicacy and complications of a relationship, it's just beautifully written. "Little Things" is one of the best songs in Big Thief's repertoire. "Heavy Bend" is only a minute and a half long, but its rhythmic (almost hip hop / trip-hop) as smashing as it is hypnotic takes you down paths never explored before by the band and I must admit I so wish it had gone on longer. Fortunately there is a beautiful musical link which is created directly after with "Flower Of Blood", one of the other pearls of this album, a demonstration Alternative Rock rather cavernous. We are struck again by this heartbreaking writing, amplified by the electric energy of this song. "Flower Of Blood" also ventures into some different things, which also proves that "Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You" is not just a simple Big Thief recital. It also continues with the alarming "Blurred View" when the Brooklyn natives dive into an almost unbreathable atmosphere. I'm definitely a fan of these risk-taking efforts.

"Red Moon" takes you back on the road for a frantic americana/folk-rock demonstration that stands out for the close-harmony between Lenker and Meek. No doubt that this complicity works so well. One would have to be blind not to notice it, Lenker is sublimated by the contribution of the other members. Let's go to "Dried Roses", an acoustic ballad to accompany the sunset. "No Reason" is one of the best Americana songs on this album. It's got everything here, fantastic melody, touching writing, warm choruses, delicate and sensational instrumentation, including the surprise contribution on flute of Rich Hardy who we met by chance. I really don't know what else to say, it's beautiful, refreshing, terribly effective. The almost homemade instrumentation of "Wake Me Up To Drive" catches your attention. You can hear that muffled accordion in the background accompanying that bouncing rhythmic pattern, it's so dizzying. Much less joyful, "Promise Is a Pendulum" is an absolutely shattering guitar song, one of the least emotional on the record. Big Thief is as often marked by magic (as for the eponymous song). The breathtaking "Simulation Swarm" is now one of the Top 5 songs of the band. It perfectly synthesizes everything that should be understood about Big Thief. If I may make a comparison, I would say that like Sufjan Stevens, Adrianne Lenker is able to do this same type of awesome song at least a hundred times, it will always work wonderfully. Here we are talking about a magician, not a musician, it's very strong. "Love Love Love" gives chills and impresses like when Bob Dylan surprised his world when he electrified his playing. Lenker gives the impression of being a tortured and disillusioned artist like those Post-Punk artists of the New Wave. There is this saturated, aggressive but slightly bluesy aesthetic that also reminds of the first hour of the Indie Rock with Pixies. The ballad "The Only Place" would have made a rather logical end for the album at first sight but I like what "Blue Lightning" represents, a muscular americana that transpires the character of "Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You".

This new album "Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You" is clearly a great success. I know that some reluctant people will say that it would have been better to make a shorter album to avoid waste, but in reality not only the weak moments remain already very good, but personally I don't mind to have more than ten/fifteen fantastic songs on an album of 20, it is already a great performance in itself. Otherwise it wouldn't have worked with less highlights. In fact, the eclecticism of this album also allows it to be rich and attractive. "Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You" is generous, managing to satisfy almost every taste. I think that the strongest thing is to see the band making such a concrete and sincere album with a totally different basis in their creative process. Usually the band is impregnated with one place, so there is a kind of thread, a backbone. But here, Big Thief knew perfectly how to make the different themes interact between them, it completes and transcends.

Doublez's Tags
14 Comments
4mo
This month is so full of many great releases to the point where I just cannot catch up ahahah! Amazing review as always!
4mo
Indeed, you will have a lot of work to do, but on the other hand It's going to be great ! Thank you very much! @Nona
4mo
love this review!!
4mo
Thanks! I love your review too! @jxshmccabe
4mo
excellent review!
4mo
It's really kind @JohnLouisHoward ! What are your favorite songs?
4mo
"Sparrow" and "Simulation Swarm" are my favorites for now, but I am sure that will change as I listen more.
4mo
Another great review! Glad you enjoyed it. I agree with you about 'Little Things' and 'Simulation Swarm' being some of their best songs to date.
4mo
great review of a heartwarming band
4mo
Thank you very much, I return the compliment too! @Louis13

I will add the eponymous song which is absolutely fabulous @Louis13 @JohnLouisHoward

It's kind buddy! I think you found the perfect adjective to describe this band @ocrakraut
4mo
@DoubleZ I love that one too. Sounds like some of Adrianne's solo work.
4mo
It’s true ! @Louis13
4mo
so detailed. love this and really enjoying the album more than i thought i would
4mo
Thank you so much! I'm glad we share this opinion! @cstuart
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