- 27 Aug 21
Dessner & Vernon return with star-studded collaborative project.
Even in the darkest of times, burdens can be shared – and on Big Red Machine’s second album, How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?, we learn that loneliness, confusion and loss can be transformed into something unexpectedly beautiful, through the power of connection.
Following the release of their debut album under their collaborative moniker three years ago, The National’s Aaron Dessner and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon have joined forces once again. This time, however, they’ve swapped out the sweeping experimentalism for something entirely more understated.
Although Vernon’s voice once again echoes throughout the project, this is ultimately Dessner’s story, and at times, offers a profoundly personal insight into a man who usually lets others take control of the microphone. Here, he finally steps into the spotlight with lead vocals on a handful of tracks, showcasing soft, whispery vocals that could be placed somewhere between Elliott Smith and Sufjan Stevens.
As well as Dessner and Vernon, and orchestration courtesy of Byrce Dessner, the collaborators are out in force – with appearances from Taylor Swift, Fleet Foxes, Sharon Van Etten, Ben Howard, This Is The Kit, Anaïs Mitchell, and Lisa Hannigan, to name a few. The Swift-centred ‘Renegade’ arrives as a jolt of unexpected energy, serving as the only major change of pace on a record that mostly follows the one gentle path. Indeed, particularly towards the second half, it's an album that becomes almost meditative in its repetition.
While Big Red Machine’s debut album was designed to be appreciated live, the new LP, despite its continued emphasis on collaboration, is a much more solitary beast. How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last? is a project to plug into alone as the evenings get shorter – which feels apt, as it poignantly addresses the transience of life, family and innocence.