“Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You,” or “DNWMIBIY,” might be Big Thief’s most impressive record. You’ve got to listen to it.
Big Thief is a Brooklyn indie folk-rock band fronted by Adrianne Lenker. As Kat Smith will tell you, Lenker is one of the best singer-songwriters playing today. Her guitar parts are intricate and spellbinding, her lyrics are measured and wise.
The four-piece band — which besides Lenker includes Buck Meek on guitar, Max Oleartchik on bass and James Krivchenia on drums — adds rich layers of composition making every song feel fresh and sonically distinct.
All 20 songs on “DNWMIBIY” are unique and all of them are excellent. Much like Lenker’s perfect 2020 effort “songs,” “DNWMIBIY” feels like an art exhibition, like a broad collection of wide-ranging pieces that fill up a quiet and sacred space with complex feelings and thoughts.
Some of these pieces need only Lenker and her guitar to be perfectly effective. In “Promise Is a Pendulum,” this one-woman dynamic duo devastates the listener with a rare caustic cynicism.
In “The Only Place,” the six strings and singular voice become a conduit for some mysterious hope.
That said, “DNWMIBIY” sounds very different from Lenker’s solo records — the energy of the band transforms songs like “Blurred View” and “Simulation Swarm” into listening landscapes. “Little Things” is a transgressive rock song, complete with screams set against the band’s droning.
The record’s crowning achievement might be “Flower of Blood,” which sounds like nothing Big Thief has ever made and displays incredible creative range. The album was produced by Big Thief’s drummer James Krivchenia, which seems apparent in the rhythmic intensity of the strange sounds of “Time Escaping.”
“Heavy Bend” says a lot in 96 seconds.
“Spud Infinity” is silly, existential and personal all at once, and it has joined my heavy rotation.
“Sparrow” sounds as heartbreaking as the whimper of an injured dog.
“Red Moon” might have the smartest lyrics of the whole album and “Dried Roses” is a haunting heartbreak song.
Most impressively, Adrianne Lenker wrote all 20 songs on the album. “DNWMIBIY” is another convincing piece of evidence that Lenker is one of today’s best songwriters. Every piece she writes demands thought and consideration. She never cheats, she never retreads herself, she never phones it in. In my opinion, she never misses.
“DNWMIBIY” is not a tight record. The album runs for 80 minutes and is therefore a difficult introduction to Big Thief for a non-fan. If that’s you, I thoroughly recommend you try “Masterpiece” (2016) or some of Adrianne Lenker’s solo work like the aforementioned “songs.”
However, for fans of the group, there’s probably nothing more wonderful to wake up to on a Friday morning than 20 new Big Thief songs.