Subscribe to our newsletter

(Credit: Press/Far Out)

Music

Album of the Week: Big Thief shine on 'Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You'

@jackwhatley89
Big Thief - 'Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You'
8.5

The old saying goes that you can never judge a book by its cover, but perhaps we can make allowances for those wishing to take a call on Big Thief‘s new album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You using only its title as a guide. This is one record that is perfectly encapsulated by its lengthy moniker.

The record is not only long, a whopping 20 different songs are stuffed into the LP, but it is packed to the brim with a kaleidoscope of influences, inspirations, styles and sonic structures. It is a bonafide cornucopia of delicately crafted folk-rock brilliance. The songs contained within the gatefold are all wonderfully mystic, too, creating a sub-genre of modernist magic that feels at once beguiling, refreshing and, ultimately, evolutionary. While Big Thief have never been afraid to let their lyrical narratives unfurl like luscious red carpets for the Queen of Hearts, this is perhaps the band’s most musically expansive release.

For any Big Thief fan, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You is the kind of album that adds a sweet signature to your declaration of their brilliance. While the group have consistently delivered a searing high quality of folk-rock sounds, on this record, they take sasquatch footsteps towards new musical heights, incorporating not only the golden strings that have steered them to success but also relying on flecks of trip-hop, glitches of brass synths and the intelligence to blend them all in a series of unfolding tableaux. This is Big Thief’s OK Computer, their White Album — their best work yet.

That’s not to say that the album is purely crafted out of the 21st century. There are still plenty of moments of thigh-slapping goodness, ‘Red Moon’ and ‘Dried Roses’, in particular, feel as warm and comforting as the orange glow of a gentle fire and there are enough pure moments of singer and guitar to warm your cockles. There are also moments of freakish creativity, such as ‘Spud Infinity’, but, in essence, this record is not concerned with categorisation or determination. Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You is a sprawling work of pure artistry, sent out into the airwaves without much care for the response; it’s about as pure as artistry can be.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about the album is its dual purpose. There is simply too much of the band’s internal style to ignore for Big Thief fans. Adrienne Lenker’s vocals are, as ever, absolutely angelic in the filthiest of ways and, lyrically, it allows the songwriter to share her thoughts on everything from vapes to the turning of the season. For those coming into this record without much knowledge of the band that created, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You operates as a wonderful collection of short stories, as easily devoured in one sitting as parcelled out for mental nourishment whenever one needs. This provides a wonderful unity.

That is very much the essence of the record. In recent interviews, Lenker has said she wanted to be more “brave” with her writing, something she has certainly achieved on this record. Allowing her lyrical constructions to fall where they may, forgetting any notion of “rules” or “reason”, she is determined to make her point in whatever way she sees fit, with the group’s penultimate song on the LP, a track featuring Lenker and her acoustic alone, is perhaps one of their most enchanting. The songwriter allows these moments of cluttered trip-hop and crystalline folk to work against one another to provide a perfect balance of nuance.

Across the album, the band play with the idea of magnetic opposites. While grumbling about humanity’s inability to care for one another, she also makes a note of their inability to lick their elbows. Reverance and irreverence sit hand in hand on this LP as they do in real life. The blur of society’s ultimately opposing narratives fighting it out, pulling all of us one way or another but eventually ending up like a spherical splat in the middle of the universe is most sincerely captured by the band through a ream of 20 highly potent songs. Life is never neat or structured but beautifully messy.

With Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You, Big Thief have managed to pull off an album that feels both organic and evolutionary. it’s a record that allows for creativity to grow and procreate among the liner notes while also staying true to the soil it was first planted in. There aren’t many albums that have the opportunity to please everyone all of the time. But there aren’t many bands like Big Thief around.