Big Thief have been indie darlings since their 2016 debut album, Masterpiece. Let’s face it, they’ve continued to build upon their lush aesthetic since then. The band, based in Brooklyn, found one another after graduating from Berklee College of Music. Luckily lead singer Adrianne Lenker, guitarist Buck Meek, bassist Max Oleartchik, and drummer James Krivchenia formed a quick bond and made it through (minus former member Jason Burger) to reach their most ambitious project to date, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You.
The double album, released February 11, 2022 on 4 AD, is just what might make indie folk cool again in a desperate time for the genre to hit the refresh button. Maybe the band is not up for trend making, but it is quite refreshing to see this foursome weave in and out of folk melodies created with such a bare minimum of instruments at hand. For example, the raw opener, a ditty called “Change”, is carried by a light strum of Meek’s acoustic guitar, and a slight tap of Krivchenia’s drums, and Linker’s soft, vulnerable voice—which is an instrument in itself. Lenker’s vocals intertwine those of Carole King and a Loretta Lynn.
“Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You” draws inspiration from Lenker’s song called “Anything” from her 2020 Solo outing Songs. She croons “It’s a little bit magic/Like a river of morning geese/In the new warm mountain/Where the stone face forms and speaks”. This is the mysterious lyricism we can expect from Lenker as she dives face into vulnerability and tenderness as she strives to find comfort from a former relationship.
“Little Things”, which was the first single off the album, is an upbeat tune in the first half of the album that radiates. The song, about a sour relationship, speaks volumes of a long-lost love: “I was inside of you/Where are you now?” keeps the listener agazed, not only from the lyrics, but the jangly guitar strokes that paint a more positive mood at this point. Tapestries of love are woven throughout this album and continues with “Dried Roses”. A somber violin matches Lenker’s vocals as she sings: “Leave the bed unmade/Draw the light green shade/Start the microwave/Dried roses” and depicts how life soldiers on after heartbreak.
Big Thief’s narrative changes throughout the album as it deals not only with of the topic of love, but touches on growing pains, death, and happiness through self-discovery. As Dragon closes out, “Blue Lightning” is a song about support that she never received as a child, thus her childhood memories are reflective in this. That’s where her band mates come into play, both figuratively and literally speaking.
The foursome finds themselves playful with words throughout, even though most of her lyrics have deeper meaning, but when you rhyme “finish” with “potato knish” on “Spud Infinity” it shows that the band does not take themselves too seriously.
As much emotion and musical integrity was drawn into this project, Big Thief might find themselves at a crossroads now and ask themselves what’s next? You can’t get any more ambitious than this.