Album Of The Week: Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You

Big Thief start their own revolution in the indie-folk scene with an album that already feels like the defining record of their career

Five years after the release of Masterpiece, Big Thief return with the record that finally earns the title – a sprawling opus of ambitious indie-folk that fizzes in a dozen different directions at once. Singing songs about potatoes and garlic bread and the eventual collapse of the universe, the band pack soft love ballads, freak-out jamborees, icicle solos and existential hoedowns into an entire afternoon of listening. “It’s music…” someone whispers halfway through one track, almost as a reminder to not get too carried away.  

Big Thief gave us two albums in 2019 with U.F.O.F. and Two Hands, but Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You feels more like five – with 20 tracks covering more than 90 minutes of funny, sad, gorgeous musical drift. The title might sound like the activation code for a missile system but it’s not nearly long or weird enough for a record that delivers on so much promise. 

Big Thief - Spud Infinity (Official Audio)

Almost breaking itself down into individual acts, the album moves through moods and sounds like a tour through the band’s own past and present. Opener ‘Change’ leads in softly with a showcase of just how remarkable Adrianne Lenker’s voice really is – carrying fragile strength right to the point of almost breaking, before ‘Time Escaping’ and ‘Spud Infinity’ take a hard turn into wilder country.

Stare at the front cover for long enough while listening to either track and it’s impossible not to picture the band as a weird woodland/dinosaur rumpus – sitting around a campfire singing songs about the infinite cosmos and savoury snacks, Lenker sounding like Joni Mitchell with a jaw harp, the others on the banjo, the fiddle and the icicle for an arthouse jug band hoedown.

As the title track weaves its way in, the heart of the album starts beating to the tune of mountain magic, with ‘Sparrow’ anchoring the second movement with a mournful western ballad that sees at the band at their most cinematic. Bigger changes follow with ‘Little Things’ and ‘Flower Of Blood’ both slow-building scuzzy folk rock walls out of fierce emotions and lot less humour.  

Big Thief - Simulation Swarm (Official Audio)

‘Wake Me Up To Drive’ opens the prairie walls back up again and ‘Promise Is A Pendulum’ strips away almost everything except Lenker’s voice for an acoustic lullaby that has no right to feel so perfectly suited to such a busy album. ‘Simulation Swarm’ makes sense as a single because it stands up so well on its own, teasing the depths that are found elsewhere on the record but fitting in here at the start of a powerful last chapter – ending darker, shonkier and angrier with ‘Love Love Love’ before ‘Blue Lightning’ call last orders with a woozy bluegrass bar ballad. There’s enough in Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You to hang an entire genre off – the sort of beautifully overflowing career centrepiece that’s already earning whispered comparisons to The White Album,Harvest and Tusk. Yet the fact that none of those obvious influences make themselves known on the record is a testament to how confident Big Thief are in their own sound. Five albums in, they’ve never been closer to a masterpiece.

Big Thief are touring the UK and Ireland throughout February and March 2022. Find tickets here.