Are UFOs real? They are on Brooklyn quartet Big Thief’s third album, U.F.O.F.
But, UFOs are only a starting point—the key is that final F, which stands for Friends. The friends who might save us, as singer Adrianne Lenker hopes of the character Jodi on opener “Contact.” The friends we don’t know everything about, as on single “Cattails,” where Lenker only wants to help her friend Caroline. Even if she’s unsure of what’s wrong, and even if Caroline is unsure herself.
The album also searches for friends in the cosmic (UFOs) and the minuscule (silkworms), all through music that’s folk-oriented but far from bound to it. The bouncy “Strange” sounds like a distant cousin to The Dirty Projectors’ Swing Lo Magellan. “Century” evokes Yo La Tengo at their most intimate. Album closer “Magic Dealer” ends with a minute-plus of extraterrestrial static. And all the while, U.F.O.F. retains a wondrous sonic consistency.
And Lenker’s voice! Listening to her sing on “Orange” is like having the entire folk tradition presented in a private concert. On “Jenni,” the eponymous character returns, much to Lenker’s relief, or so we hope. Her vocal subtleties leave us feeling a tad uncertain.
According to Big Thief, anyone and anything can be our friend. The secret lies in helping others, finding the beauty around us, and letting things take us by surprise. Follow their advice, and you may have found your new favorite album.