Guest feature Anaïs Mitchell asks the title phrase “how long do you think it’s gonna last?” to begin Big Red Machine’s newest album. Her outside presence sets the tone for the project in which Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon team up with a diverse array of guests like Sharon Van Etten, Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes, and even Taylor Swift. Although every track bears the fingerprints of Dessner’s spacious alternative rock production, the individual collaborators each carry enough personality to construct a collection of songs that engage the listener in different ways.
“Birch,” featuring Taylor Swift, perfectly exemplifies the sounds of this record—melodic piano mixes with a frenetic drum loop as Swift and Vernon’s mournful voices intertwine. Instrumentals rarely come plainly on this album; choppy guitars and driving drums add a layer of complexity to songs like “Magnolia” that could have just as easily been sung over a simply strummed acoustic. “The Ghost of Cincinnati” stands out for its simplicity; Dessner sings and plays alone in a track that would fit just as flawlessly on a Simon and Garfunkel album as it does here. Threads of loss, regret, and connection weave through the record, but the strongest attribute of How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last? is its cohesion despite its varied vocals and musical styles. The album oozes familiarity even though one never quite knows what is coming next.
You can check out How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last wherever you listen to music.
Photo Credit: Big Red Machine
Hegarty is the Reviews Editor a Sophomore in the SFS.