Published May 01, 2019On Big Thief's third album, U.F.O.F. (UFO Friend), the band sound more at ease than ever, yet there is an unmistakeable, gentle restlessness willing the four-piece toward darker, more magical realms. Their much-beloved first two albums, Masterpiece and Capacity, often touched on this elemental curiosity, thanks to bandleader Adrianne Lenker's free-flowing storytelling that blended reality with imagination, but on U.F.O.F., Big Thief have fully immersed themselves in their world, where the mundane becomes the supernatural.
The album begins by detailing a brief, intimate moment with a character named Jodi on "Contact," submerging around tender, motherly embrace before Lenker's liberating scream impulsively pulls the song into a feeling of rippling fear. In contrast, on "From," a song reworked from Lenker's recent solo album, abysskiss, James Krivchenia's fluttering drums delicately dance around a crystal clear, finger-picked acoustic guitar. Buck Meek's subdued, gauzy guitar tones act like a protective hug on "Betsy," barely there yet perfectly essential textures to go with Max Oleartchik's deceptively faint bass lines and Lenker's deep, whisper-like murmurs.
U.F.O.F. is an album wrinkled with uncertainty, but Lenker's intensely descriptive narratives unfold and carefully crease these recollections, relying on instinctual emotions rather than searching for reasons why. "Open Desert" exists on the brink of both birth and death, but in a calming manner — Lenker's fragile repetitive guitar part lifts the prosaic central line of the song: "The white light of the waiting room leaking through the crack in the door." On "Jenni," a thick, spiritual presence is dictated by low, rumbling guitars and reluctant percussion. But instead of conveying despair or anxiety, there is a sense of innocence and trust towards this intangible, looming mystery.
Big Thief are accepting the inherent beauty of life's invisible forces and their contemplation with the unknown has led them to a mindful state of raw, celestial power. U.F.O.F. is trembling with mystical energy and is truly one of the year's best records. (4AD)