Big Thief’s new album, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You, which dropped in February of this year is the band’s longest project to date. With 20 songs, the record bounces between heavy country with folk undertones to more modern, indie rock sounds. Compared to their prior projects, this new album seems to be a slight departure, sonically, from their previous tendencies. At the band’s show in Denver on April 29, their variety in sound, and the sincerity with which they performed was certainly the highlight of the evening.
The band began on a calmer note with two songs from lead singer Adrianne Lenker’s recent solo album, Songs, easing the audience into the set. Those first two songs, including the beautiful and heartbreaking, “not long, just forever,” transported me into a state where I was only capable of focusing on the performance in front of me.
Tangled in the singularity of Lenker’s songwriting and emotion are a vulnerability and humanity that anyone can latch onto. One particular song which I keep revisiting is “Simulation Swarm” off of the most recent album. When discussing the song with Rolling Stone, Lenker said the song came out of a combination of “intense experiences” including a multi-day hospitalization.
One of these experiences is not having met a biological brother named Andy, who was given up for adoption when Lenker’s mother was a teenanger. Lenker has written about this experience in other song’s including “Mythological Beauty” and continues to do so in “Simulation Swarm.”
Little Andy, soft in your newborn skin
Only one, little Andy, will you return again?
I believe we can renew
And you could be my brother
As I stood there, completely transfixed on Lenker’s performance, I couldn’t help but think of my own family. The chorus 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.” In my own life, despite all the noise and pain it brings, my family will always come first. I will always wonder if my little brother and sister are doing alright, when they are far away.
The band also played three unreleased songs in the middle of the set. All of them seemed to follow the more gentle country-folk sounds which much of Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You relies on.
In a recent interview with YouTube reviewer Anthony Fantano, Lenker discussed how in this new album, you can really hear each member’s contributions and individuality on the record. In the pursuit of a consistent sound throughout the album, the band members found comfort in relinquishing control, and finding freedom through an unknown path. The result was the explorative nature that is Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You. This was no different at Mission Ballroom last Saturday night. The ease at which the band was able to transition between different sounds was remarkable.
Notably, the drummer, James Krivchenia’s ability to control pace and maintain perfect volume made each song an exploration to the audience. Songs like “Not” and “Contact” along with the unreleased tracks were all songs I was previously unfamiliar with. While I couldn’t sing along with these songs, I felt transported.
At the end of the show, as I have been reflecting these past few days, even with a strong familiarity with the band, I felt as if I had stumbled upon completely new artists. I was transported to a place where everything else — in my mind and around me — was quiet. I had fallen in love again. Those are the feelings you hope for after a show. Thank you for that, Big Thief.