Big win by Big Thief
Come and play in the meadows of outer space! Big Thief knocks it out of the park and out of the atmosphere with this delicate, polished, and relatable musical powerhouse, the twelve-track album that is U.F.O.F. This album is mostly populated with soft tunes, occasionally features some louder moments and constantly invites the listeners onto their extraterrestrial picnic blanket.
The title track is a modified acronym meaning UFO Friend, and me oh my, it is a lyrical ace. Catchy? Not particularly, but its storytelling and emotional communication is supreme. Even the strongest (strangest?) friendships can come to an end. A lyric that speaks to that and sends a spinal shiver is “just like a bad dream/ you’ll disappear/ another map turns blue/ mirror on mirror.” Hot damn, THIS is the verbal jam.
“Cattails,” immediately following “U.F.O.F.,” is notably rustic. Perhaps the soundtrack to a journal entry of Huckleberry Finn, it conjures up the studio in Washington where this album was recorded. The guitars are gregarious and comfort the ears like the rustling of, well, cattails. “Strange” sees a brighter tempo take flight, and is sandwiched by the summer evening backyard lounger that is “Century” at the front and the soothing travel tune “Betsy” at the back.
The only two moments that could be considered “dull” are “Open Desert” (perhaps reflecting the boring parts of the namesake dry lands) and “Terminal Paradise,” which just doesn’t feel as comfortable or as rural as the others. Every song here belongs either in a patch of Earth wilderness or a similar one on another planet, and that is admirable consistency.
Picking a favorite track is not easy, but the penultimate “Jenni” is noteworthy for its lyrical simplicity and emotional power. Some listeners will probably wish they knew lead singer Adrienne Lenker well enough to earn such a champion of a song, but not everyone can be so lucky. This album is wonderful and is well worth the listen.