Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You
Indie Folk | Americana | Country
Let’s address the elephant in the room before we continue any further: Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You is a ridiculous title. Absolutely bonkers. I certainly wouldn’t say it’s the worst album title in recent memory, but nor can I deny that it’s a strong contender. At least when the likes of The 1975 rock an uncomfortably long title it forms a coherent sentence rather than feeling like a random hodge-podge of words Frankensteined together. It makes it hard to recommend the album to someone without them thinking your brain has gone off on a tangent part way through the name.
Baffling moniker aside, there’s a lot to love about Griffin Recent Tepid Hill You Have My Support. The only thing stretching on longer that its title is the whopping 80 minute run time, and yet it somehow it avoids the pitfalls that plague nearly every double album. Generally, besides a handful of famous exceptions, double albums hardly ever justify their length. If you’re lucky you could edit it down to one solid album’s worth of good material, while the other half consists of risky sonic experiments and lacklustre filler tracks all hoping in vain to slip in under the radar. But as it happens, the album manages to hold on to a consistent level of quality. Only the listless and repetitive arrangement of ‘Sparrow’ and the disjointed stumbling of ‘Love Love Love’ dip below into filler track territory, and even then only on a more focussed listen.
Moreover, while oddities are usually a double album’s undoing, the more experimental parts of Dragon etc. actually end up standing out for all the right reasons. The old school country fiddle and twang of jaw harp on ‘Spud Infinity’ walks a great line between earnestness and tongue-in-cheek, the title track has a blissful austere feel that in places evokes Nick Drake, ‘Flower of Blood’ dabbles in post punk blending both angular and harmonic elements, while the vibrant jangle pop of ‘Little Things’ and its fuzzy guitar work jumps out as a clear album highlight.
However, Unicorn Fresh Hot Cliff I’m On Your Side is not defined by its outliers, rather by its core sound. At its heart Dragon etc. plays like a love letter to classic country and down-to-Earth Americana. With Adrienne Lenker’s vocals often bringing to mind the likes of Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris, and the band’s immaculate command of a warm pastoral sound, it makes for such a homely and comforting listen. A quiet rustic refuge from the chaos of the outside world. It’s a record that breaks the mould; when so many double albums drag on for an age, and often have you cherry-picking the highlights over delving into it all over again, Dragon etc. seems to just fly by and manages a consistent high bar of quality without cracks forming even after multiple spins. I can’t say that Wyvern Latest Toasty Peak I Have Faith In You held me captivated as it seems to have done for so many reviewers, but it’s an album that I enjoyed my time with and would happily return to time and again.