“I am large, I contain multitudes,” Walt Whitman once wrote in the 51st section of his “Song of Myself”. Big Red Machine’s new album How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last? embodies Whitman’s free verse on an indie-rock scale. In this largeness that contains multitudes, we find first of all the founding tandem of the project, i.e. Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and Aaron Dessner (discreet half of the twin duo working in The National), as well as their multiple guests: Sharon Van Etten (indie demi-goddess), Ben Howard (renowned millennial troubadour), Aaron Dessner (other, more visible half of the aforementioned twin duo), Kate Stables (a.k.a. This Is the Kit), Shara Nova (singer and leader of My Brightest Diamond), Robin Pecknold (Fleet Foxes singer), Ilsey Juber (über-composer and singer), Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman), Ryan Olson (Gayngs leader), S. Carey (Bon Iver drummer and solo creator in his own right), Lisa Hannigan (Celestial Irish), Naeem (ex-Spank Rock), Benjamin Lanz (member of Beirut), Ariel Engle (aka La Force, also with Broken Social Scene), and James Krivchenia (drummer for Big Thief) Oh, I forgot Taylor Swift… as well as the very precious Vermont folkie Anaïs Mitchell, whose three interventions are highlights on How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last? On Big Red Machine’s first album, released in 2018, Dessner and Vernon were playing Peter Gabriel in a daring phase. Here, the tone is more reassuring, as if our duo and their guests were on a mission to calm our Covidian neurosis with ethereal and generally evocative folk tunes. Moreover, the musicophile will notice that Justin Vernon’s voice sounds strangely like Pete Townshend’s, when it eludes any synthetic fiddling (this is particularly obvious on “Mimi”). Moreover, listening to “Brycie”, the penultimate piece of this dense collection, we notice that Rumours still influences folk-rock creators, 44 years after its release.
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