(Photo Credit: Michael Buishas) Contact
We had the opportunity to get advance access to Big Thief's new album U.F.O.F! The album drops May 3rd set to be released by 4AD! Check out our track by track review of this fantastic album below!
"Contact" kicks the album off, it has a slow repetitive melody that grounds the track. It's accompanied by Adrianne Lenker's fantastic vocals. Midway through the song, some awesome electric guitar work is introduced. It's accompanied by vocal screams, and it downright works. Lyrically, the track is very abstract, but seems to deal a lot with personal struggle. "UFOF" is next on the album and thematically involves interpersonal struggles between two people from a narrative perspective. Musically, it's well grounded in indie-folk stylings. Vocally, Lenker hovers delicately above the melody here, in a way that intrigues the listener.
"Cattails", the latest single from the album features an almost alt-country sound to it. Bright guitars accompany Lenker. This song seems to be about a couple of things, time passing and going home. Two themes that are often popular in alt-country music. It's pulled off well here. Next we have "From" which starts off with some fantastic finger-picked guitar work. Lenker's vocals incorporate a lot of vibrato but it's done in a non-traditional style. There are also some great harmony sections in this track. Lenker's vocals tread the line of explosion here once or twice, in an almost growl which is fantastic to hear. It goes so well with the restrained nature of the song.
"Open Desert" again begins with finger-picked guitar. But it also employs a slow, methodical drum line. There are some outstanding harmonies on this track as well. Thematically, the song seems to be dealing with abuse as there are allusions to darkened eyes, teeth being gone, and hospitals. "Orange" has a brighter guitar line that thematically is juxtaposed to its music. Thematically, there are lyrics of tears, mourning, death, and the like. From the guitar, you'd think this track was a campfire sing-a-long. I love the break here between theme and song.
The next track is "Century". With "Century", Big Thief move to an eclectic backing sound, that when combined with the vocals remind of a Stevie Nicks track. On "Strange", the sound shifts to a beat that's a bit more Americana/folk. Especially when the guitar breaks between verses. It's a clever pairing of vocals and guitar that is unique to Big Thief. "Betsy" is an extremely understated track that evokes comps to Sigur Rós, though it's far more acoustic than the Icelandic band's sound would tend to be.
"Terminal Paradise"features Lenker exercising great range with her vocals. At some points flying toward falsetto, other times diving back down, she is a dynamic vocal talent and it is never more apparent on the album than this song. "Jenni" features dominant percussion work and delicate vocal work by Lenker. The song instantly feels like it's building to something, the use of electric guitar is markedly more pronounced in this one than in the other tracks. The momentum builds until the guitar takes over for a slight solo, that was slightly underwhelming. "Magic Dealer" feels like such a perfect ending track for this album. It's got a classic feeling to it, it feels more Americana, like this song has seen some shit and has a story to tell. Lenker's vocals are every part alt-country as she plays the part perfectly. Midway through the song it breaks down into an abstract array of sound. That's one way to leave it.
Closing Thoughts - What a journey! This album has a little bit of everything, there are songs that lean a little more folk, a little more Americana, and a bit more abstract. Vocally, This album is strong. Adrianne Lenker's vocals are everywhere on this album in a tour de force of vocal ability. Songwriting is a strength as well, as use of well-thought out abstract metaphors are offered to convey messages throughout the album.
Rating - 4.5/5