Big Thief’s New Album Provokes Inspiration

Rufus Helmreich, Contributing Writer

Rating: 5/5 Falcons

Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You is alternative band Big Thief’s ambitious new 20-track album. The cover, featuring a pencil sketch of owls, bears, birds, and a dinosaur playing around a campfire, sets the tone of a cozy singalong. Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You doesn’t take itself too seriously; you’re going to have fun with it.

Throughout, the lyrics pair classic folk song imagery—heartsickness, wandering the world, figuring out one’s place in it, togetherness—with more modern and surrealist flair, which grounds the album in today’s world. The forward momentum of standout track “Simulation Swarm” is complemented by a jaunty guitar section matching Adrainne Lenker’s vocals.

Her unique voice cracks unpredictably; the imperfection adds to the feeling of intimacy she creates. The cryptic story of the song becomes clearer around halfway through when Lenker describes a newborn child, a brother she never met. She sings, “I’d fly to you tomorrow, I’m not fighting in this war / I wanna drop my arms and take your arms and walk you to the shore.” If any part of this song can be decoded, it’s the feeling of togetherness; more crucially, the painful desire and hope for being united.

The lyrics pair classic folk song imagery with more modern and surrealist flair.”

In contrast, “Promise is a Pendulum” is slower and almost dirgelike. This incredibly intimate piece has all other members of the band step back to let Lenker deliver what sounds like an exposed confession. She sings, “I could never tell you now what I had often said before / because promise is a pendulum just swinging at the door / and I’m not saying I’m not jealous or scared anymore.” The spare acoustic space around her voice makes it feel like she’s singing directly to the listener.

“Time Escaping” features more experimental instrumentation. The song is a rush of energy, and like its title, it’s always slipping away from itself, leading the listener through a journey that sounds like it’s being guided by a wind-up mechanism. The track is an intricately constructed vehicle built from the instrumental prowess of the band members—singer/ songwriter Adrianne Lenker, guitarist Buck Meek, bassist Max Oleartchik, and drummer James Krivchenia—all trained at Boston’s Berklee College of Music.

“Blue Lightning” closes the album with a bouncy country song that invites everybody to sway along after a long time apart. Lenker sings, “Yeah, I wanna feel so happy that I cry / Yeah, I wanna be the shoelace that you tie / Yeah, I wanna live forever ‘til I die.” It’s not a song that you would dance alone to in your room alone at night; it asks for a more communal listening. “Blue Lighting” is the perfect conclusion, a comforting depiction of darker themes.

As we head into a spring hopefully free from the weight of the pandemic, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You tells us that despite the ongoing trials of our time, there is always something to believe in.

This piece also appears in our March 2022 print edition.