Big Red Machine
How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last?
“Is it really your anxiety/that stops you from giving me everything/or do you just not want to?” Taylor Swift sings in her signature, penetrating way on her surprise contribution, “Renegade,” to Big Red Machine’s latest album, which comes out on August 27th on Jagjaguwar/37203d.
It seems like the record, How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?, was created in the opposite spirit: free from the trappings of fans’ expectations, full of the excitement of musicians who obviously love (and excel at) their craft, Big Red Machine has a freedom and a generosity to it that few acts out there display. Even with their busy schedules and their notable successes, they WANT to be doing this, and it shows.
Justin Vernon and crew never seem to eschew the rougher parts of life, however, and the album is full of the drama and wonder that the album name asks of us, “‘How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?’, a question which… could refer to multiple subjects addressed therein: ‘childhood, family, marriages, a depression, a losing streak, a winning streak or a creative streak.” With an impressive cast of characters, including Anais Mitchell, Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes, and Sharon Van Etten, the album is at once focused and untethered, an experiment in pushing the envelope and reigning in the heart.
During the recording of Taylor Swift’s surprise albums, folklore and evermore, Aaron Dessner would send song ideas to Justin Vernon, who would wow him with his results. “There are many moments working with him where your head hits the wall in amazement,” Dessner says of working with Vernon. “Songs of feathers and glory / Early morning flights / all these years ago/Seeing darkness out the window,” Vernon sings with La Force on “8:22am.”
Tackling heavy topics, like childhood trauma, failed marriages, and suicide, the generosity on the album is a generosity to all the things life sends our way. “Laid out like a book / You’re reading my whole mind / Highlighter highliting the intimate things they’ve found.” The feel of the album is beautiful and funky, the rhythm section one of my favorite parts of the project, except of course the amazing vocal display by everyone involved.
“Magnolia/Did you heal yet?” Compassion permeates these tunes, something you can hear in every voice that sings on the album, in every musical note, and by the end of an impressive collection of songs (15 altogether!) you’ve gone on quite an emotional, experimental indie pop journey. Something that holds up to each of the artists’ main projects. It must have been cathartic, to create an album, “on the side,” that comes so powerfully down the pike.
Pre-order How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last? by Big Red Machine HERE