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Album #2: Big Thief – U.F.O.F.

  • Released: 2019
  • Origin: New York, USA
  • Label: 4AD
  • Best Track: Jenni

The first few of these I do might well be a series of 2019 albums I didn’t get round to listening to last year.

I’ve been pretty slow to get onto Big Thief at all, in truth. I listened to last year’s Two Hands after reading the rave reviews and instantly loved it (especially the amazing ‘Not’ – a poem in its own right), but that was actually the second of two albums released by the New York folk-rockers last year. The earlier one, U.F.O.F., was also widely acclaimed, but the consensus seemed to be that Two Hands came along and outdid it.

On early listens, though, I have a feeling this is at least as good as its follow-up, if not better. It’s quite different – there’s certainly no ‘Not’ on it, and there probably isn’t even anything that smacks you as being a single as much as ‘Forgotten Eyes’. Throughout the record, Adrianne Lenker’s vocals are not as pronounced as on ‘Two Hands’, veering more towards the breathy and ethereal.

I also hear a bit more of a post-punk and even emo vibe in parts. ‘From’ and ‘Open Desert’ wouldn’t sound out of place on a record by American Football or early Jimmy Eat World. The lyrics are generally sparse too, in comparison to the more verbose album that followed it. Nowhere is this more notable than on the penultimate track ‘Jenni’, with it’s repeated refrain of “Jenni’s in my room” a haunting and mysterious one. The intrigue is in what’s omitted, not unlike with ‘Not’ despite the entirely different lyrical approach.

I’ve listened to the two 2019 albums the wrong way round, certainly, but this band fascinates me and maybe there’s no “wrong” way to discover them. I wouldn’t even say they’re ‘what I’m into’, but they’re that good it doesn’t matter.

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