Feature: Best Albums of 2022

Big Thief – {Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You} [4AD]

Adrianne Lenker, Buck Meek, Max Oleartchik and James Krivchenia spins organic folk gold, stirs a little debate on the creative process, and reaches new heights as Big Thief on their masterful double LP {Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You} in 2022. Through the course of the record’s 20 tracks, the band unfurls its compositions with confidence and even aplomb but still manages to sound close-knit, sweater-weather warm, impossibly intimate.

This being in the orbit of Adrianne Lenker, there’s loads of references to time — opener “Change” is a doctoral thesis writ large, with Lenker tracing how elements of time alter the wind, the water, the sky, and a butterfly. Beyond the questioning of time and mankind’s place within it, the band manages to make muted guitars and sparsely recorded drums sound vaguely religious, if not incredibly hallowed. {“Silent river pouring backward eternally,”} Lenker sings at one point. Exactly.

The transitions between styles are knotted and not always natural, and Big Thief seems to function well in this paradigm. Part of this can be chalked up to the production; the group’s fifth album was recorded in five different places during the course of five months. But Big Thief makes a good argument for the lack of connective tissue among the various styles and presentations. “The whole point of Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You is its freedom from inhibition and structure—just look at the damn title of the album,” music writer Aaron Paskin penned in our very own {Spectrum Culture} pages earlier this year. “Of course, this wouldn’t all work if the songs themselves weren’t this good.” Play the beatific “No Reason” again and you’ll see what he means. — Justin Vellucci, Spectrum Culture, Dec. 20, 2022


About the author

Justin Vellucci is a staff writer for PopMatters, Spectrum Culture, and MusicTAP, a contributor to Pittsburgh Current, and a former staffer for Popdose, Punk Planet and Delusions of Adequacy. His music writing has appeared in national magazines such as American Songwriter, alt-pubs like The Brooklyn Rail, Pittsburgh CityPaper and San Diego CityBeat, blogs Swordfish, Punksburgh and Linoleum, and the Gannett magazine Jetty. He lives in Pittsburgh.