Media Review: Big Thief

All photos courtesy of Big Thief

Listening to Big Thief is like hearing an alien describe one of your childhood memories: the emotions are familiar, but the perspective is entirely different. Lead singer and songwriter Adrianne Lenker’s ethereal lyrics and vocals mix with the band’s skillful instrumentals, creating an unusual and evocative effect. This unearthly quality is present in much of Big Thief’s discography, but two of their albums exemplify it best. The first, released in 2019, is an eerie extraterrestrial-inspired recording titled U.F.O.F., an acronym for “UFO friend.” The second, released in February of 2022, is a 20-track, multi-genre project titled Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You. Both albums illustrate Lenker’s ability to connect the cosmic with the human, allowing listeners to see their experiences in the world from a different perspective.

Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You

Upon first listen, Big Thief songs sound like beautifully unstructured collections of words and melodies. However, after a few repeats, you may begin to recognize yourself within the music. Lenker’s creative genius is one that is best appreciated slowly. Big Thief’s work might seem abstract at first. But with time, listeners discover elements of their music that evoke familiar emotions and transform their perspectives. U.F.O.F.‘s title track is one example of this phenomenon. Over a delicate guitar tune, soft drumming, and humming feedback, Lenker sings, “There’ll soon be proof that there is no alien, just a system of truth and lies.” Although this lyric might pass by unnoticed at first, repeated listening allows you to appreciate its significance. This line introduces one of the central themes of Big Thief’s lyrics: if there is no alien, then nothing separates humanity from the strangeness of the universe. The music on U.F.O.F. contributes to this altered mindset of blurred boundaries between the physical and the cosmic. Ethereal string and percussion melodies intertwine with vivid sounds of the natural world, providing a sense of undiscovered purity. Lenker sings about the lights of New York City with the same reverence that she bestows on silkworms, moths, and worms, shifting listeners’ perspectives by allowing them to appreciate the interconnectedness of life. 


The magic of Big Thief lies in their ability to convey familiar experiences with a foreign, almost otherworldly perspective, allowing listeners to view their own lives as microcosms of a greater power. This transcendent perspective continues in the band’s newest album, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You. “Spud Infinity,” one of the most country-inspired songs on the album, conveys a message of cosmic unity with a playful twist. While fiddles harmonize and marching-band drums play a merry rhythm, Lenker sings, “What’s it gonna take to free the celestial body? From way up there it looks so small, from way down here it looks so small, one peculiar organism aren’t we all together?” With these questions, Lenker asks her audience to consider the idea that all of existence is intrinsically linked. Ultimately, Dragon New Warm Mountain seeks to alter listeners’ views of the world around them.

Big Thief’s music is a manifestation of the bond between the human and the cosmic elements of the world. Ethereal instrumentals and lyrics lend their music an unearthly quality, while recurring natural and celestial motifs serve as reminders of humanity’s connection to every part of existence. Big Thief’s music transcends the human mindset, empowering listeners to view their own lives from an otherworldly perspective.