The thought that l repeatedly had while listening to “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You” was that I didn’t think anyone made albums like this anymore. Clocking in at just over two hours and twenty tracks, it’s a sprawling album where no track is filler. The indulgent double album is often big step in a bands career, but Big Thief are nothing if not prolific, and it actually feels like the right step for them. Their last output consisted of two records in 2019, and since, the members have been working on various solo albums. Still a record like this is not something you see often from today’s bands, and to be honest, it feels closer to something like Wilco’s “Being There” than anything else, and yet it’s surprisingly fresh.
It took me some time for Big Thief’s hooks to sink into me. I enjoyed both 2017’s “Capacity” and their first release of 2019, “U.F.O.F." It was that year’s later release of “Two Hands” where I really sat up and took notice. On a long drive to Nashville, that album grabbed me by the throat. That said, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You” but I was grinning from song one. There is so much in this album to love.
First, lets talk about instrumentation. There are so many layers to these songs, and every thing is on the table. One minute you’ve got “Time escaping” which is built on a futuristic percussion that Adrienne Lenker’s vocals float over. Then onto the next track, “Spud Infinity,” with its fiddle, mouthharp, and back porch feel. When you think the album has found it’s footing in soft folk, it moves into a pop song like “Little Things” with it’s sheen and breathy echoes. You’d think such disparity would be jarring, but it isn’t at all. Lenker’s vocals and the band’s confidence tie it all together to create one unified listen.
Which brings us to the vibe, the real glue of the whole affair. This record sounds like a band sitting in one room, playing these songs in one take. You feel the camaraderie and the joy fused into the music, and it’s clear that the trust this band has in each other allows them to go where music takes them. Listening through the record it recalled those early albums by The Band, where they tried to recreate the feel of sitting in the basement of Big Pink. “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You” is filled with count-offs and vocal asides at the beginning and end of tracks that only ad to this casual, yet confident vibe. By the time you reach “Red Moon” where in the midst of the fiddles and twang, Lenker hollers “That’s my GrandMa!” you’re so immersed in this world that it feels like you’re watching the band at the world most intimate show.
Every song has something unique to offer, each bolstered by Lenker’s lyrics. Which can be both raw and vulnerable while also being enigmatic and aloof. I think part of what kept me from fully embracing Big Thief in those early albums is the impression I had that they were very serious. While I appreciated the intensity on such early tracks like “Not,” “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You” shows a well rounded band who can cut loose, have fun, and make fantastic music. There is nothing more serious than that.
Check out Big Thief’s full discography on their Bandcamp page!