Big Thief – U.F.O.F.: New Album Review

Big Thief are an indie rock band with prominent folk and Americana influences. They’ve been prolific in their short career, with U.F.O.F. their third album in three years.

Big Thief are influenced by vintage folk-rock acts like The Band, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Fleetwood Mac; U.F.O.F. captures The Band’s aura of old time Americana and taps into the mystic folk aura of Van Morrison’s early solo records.

Big Thief are based in Brooklyn, although their backwoods sound is perhaps explained by songwriter Adrianne Lenker’s unusual experiences growing up; her family lived in a van after leaving a religious cult. Lenker is joined by Buck Meek on guitar and backup vocals, Max Oleartchik on bass, and James Krivchenia on drums.

Lenker’s haunting, near-whispering voice is reminiscent of Marianne Faithfull, and it carries gravitas. She’s often a detached observer, like this couplet from standout track ‘Cattails’.

Violet’s eyes, Violet plays
Going back home to the Great Lakes
Where the cattail sways
With the lonesome loon
Riding that train in late June

‘Cattails’ is performed by only half the band – Lenker accompanies herself adeptly on 12-string guitar, with only Krivchenia’s splashy drums for backup.

Opener ‘Contact’ ratchets up from the band’s usual introspective Indie folk into an intense coda of guitar riffing and screaming. More often the band sticks to introspective, mystic folk – the final F. in UFOF stands for friend.

It’s not the most immediate album, but U.F.O.F. is stunning, a record of almost limitless depth and character.

Big Thief have a fourth album due in October 2019 – Two Hands is described as the “celestial twin” to U.F.O.F..

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19 comments

    1. I’d choose the word mellow rather than lacklustre. I haven’t spent much time with the others, but it does seem more subdued and stylistically marrow than their previous work?

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  1. Very much a new convert to Big Thief – loved UFOF and picked up Capacity shortly after. This one reveals so much with every listen, it’s really hypnotic.

    PLUS they just announced another new album for this year too! Bonus 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “It’s not the most immediate album” is probably the best way to describe how I felt about it, but I need to spend more time with it. And I will. Then I’m gonna hit up the new one.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. I think of it in terms of economics – it’s like a utility curve (utility is the amount of enjoyment you derive each listen). Takes a few listens to get much utility from some albums, but you get more sustained utility in the long run.

          Liked by 1 person

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