Album of the Week: Big Thief, 'U.F.O.F.'

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Big Thief, 'U.F.O.F.'
Big Thief, 'U.F.O.F.' (4AD Records)
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Big Thief's new album, U.F.O.F., is both one of the most immediately striking albums of the year, as well as one of the deepest, with new surprises and revelations with every listen. Individual songs have the ability to take your breath away when heard in isolation - such as on the radio - and yet they all fit together into a single, cohesive piece, making U.F.O.F. a challenging, yet infinitely rewarding, listening experience.

One of the closest comparisons I'd make to U.F.O.F. is the Shins' debut album, Oh, Inverted World, where it's clear from the outset that there's brilliance from top to bottom, while also making it evident that a listener will have to put in the work to find it. Many of the songs on U.F.O.F. are based around seemingly simple, hypnotic guitar arpeggios by Adrianne Lenker and Buck Meek. Each song bears its own distinctive elements, but they also all blur together in an all-encompassing way that never feels repetitive; it's clear that entire universes are being carved out of a mist in real time, and makes the album work as a full experience.

Lenker tells intricate stories with few words, whether they are based autobiographically (such as her grandmother, on "Cattails") or fantastical, such as her "UFO friend" on the title track. While Lenker gives a strong voice to all her characters, I'm even more impressed by the range of her own singing voice, which can range from a whisper to a croon to a drawl to a literal full-throated scream, all fitting equally well into the band's aesthetic. Lenker, at her best, is almost without peer in contemporary American music, and U.F.O.F. is another striking showcase for her talents.

In describing this album, it would be easy to name a time of year and a corresponding weather condition and say that U.F.O.F. is perfect seasonal listening. We're featuring it as our Album of the Week in summer, and it's easy to imagine it as a soundtrack to warm winds and rushing brooks, but I have a feeling it will also hold up equally well during both spring rains and the first chills of autumn. By the time we make our year-end (and decade-end lists) under cover of winter darkness, it's easy to imagine U.F.O.F. revealing its treasures in even more ways, as its magic spell continues to grow.

Resources


Big Thief - Official Site

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8 Photos

  • Big Thief perform in The Current's studio
    Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
  • Big Thief 2019 press photo
    Big Thief (Michael Buishas)
  • Big Thief perform in The Current's studio
    Big Thief perform in The Current's studio (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
  • Big Thief perform in The Current's studio
    Adrianne Lenker and Max Oleartchik of Big Thief (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
  • Big Thief perform in The Current's studio
    Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
  • Big Thief perform in The Current's studio
    Big Thief perform in The Current's studio (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
  • Big Thief perform in The Current's studio
    Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
  • Big Thief perform in The Current's studio
    Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief performing in The Current's studio (Emmet Kowler for MPR)

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