Since they began, we’ve all known that Big Thief makes pretty music. The mixture of Adrianne Lenker’s voice and Buck Meek’s guitar tones create a magical space where tones and melodies seem to feed off of one another. With their latest release U.F.O.F. they not only continue that trend in their songwriting, but they take it leaps and bounds further to create an album where the pieces in-between are as stunning as the tones they bring to the table.
The way the album opens with “Contact,” it feels like an old friend returning from years away. All of the factors that make the band endearing are present with the opening notes. The bridge of the track alone should floor any listener-its tenderness and delicate nature cannot be denied-nor should it. However the band unleashes a bit of fury when the sound gets met with snarling guitars and a bit of vocal abrasion in the latter moments of the track, foretelling that the band has more tricks than a magician. That delicate balance occurs again on title track “UFOF” and on following track “Cattails.” Big Thief is definitely exploring their more tender side, dancing around what folk and indie rock can sound like together.
But if that were where things stayed interesting, that would be one thing. Though the band changes time signatures with ease on “From” while showing their strengths as a unit. The song feels in the moment with hints of improvisation that could only be pulled off by the four piece. “Orange” has a happy-g-lucky stride and that compliments Lenker’s voice enough for it to spread its wings, “Strange” has a sing song vibe that never really lets your ears down and “Jenni” has a darkness that you wouldn’t expect-yet it’s there and it works with an intense build that’s just magical. The album’s closer “Magic Dealer” however is where the real sorcery lies. Lenker’s vocals dance in a playful way with the bass, the drums come in and depart like a thief in the night and these synths create a dissonant tone that feels far and away from what you’re expecting. The turn in style and instrumentation is so far to left that it holds weight in how it’s presented while the album closes and Big Thief gives us yet another turn in their narrative.
U.F.O.F. is available to stream wherever you stream music, it can be purchased digitally in all online music retailers or on compact disc or vinyl directly from 4AD Records. Big Thief will be on tour beginning May 18 in Leeds, UK at Brudenell Social Club until November 11 in Columbus, OH at The Athenaeum Theatre. A complete list of their upcoming performances can be accessed here.
Image Credits: Photo by Michael Buishas.