Big Red Machine are back with their sophomore follow-up to their 2018 self-titled debut. The band, made up of Aaron Dessner (The National) and Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), was produced at their Long Pond studio in upstate New York, and features their distinctive and ethereal vocals throughout.
Nonetheless, Dessner and Vernon are certainly not the only voices heard on this eclectic record. Coming together with an all-star cast of guest appearances, including Taylor Swift, Anaïs Mitchell (Bonny Light Horseman) and Robin Pecknold (Fleet Foxes), How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last? is a fifteen-track, hour-long portfolio that just about hits the mark.
‘Mimi’, which feature singer and multi-hit-songwriter Isley, is the most exciting song on the album, highlighting the band’s musicianship in a tricky 5/4 time signature. The sharp rhythm guitar skills of Aaron Dessner are displayed on this track and is the most Bon Iver-influenced song on the album.
‘Renegade’, which features a Taylor Swift lead, holds its own with a driving drum beat and harmonies from Vernon. This was one of the first clips of the album that leaked when Vernon let it slip in an interview earlier this year and is certainly one of the most distinctive track on the record.
‘Hutch’ is a gorgeous and heartfelt tribute to the Frightened Rabbit lead singer Scott Hutchison who took his life in 2018. One of the best coping mechanisms for any grief in life is to flush it out in a creative, artistic way and this is a perfect example of the healing power of music.
The first time I heard ‘Easy to Sabotage’ I believe was at Terminal 5 in NYC several years ago. I recall it being very DJ drum and bass driven and it’s always interesting to see the progress a song makes from its early version to the final studio cut.
Although How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last? does have a spectacular cast of indie-alternative all-star guests, the album lacks excitement at times and isn’t one of the most memorable projects that these artists have contributed to in the past. Big Red Machine always does have something up their sleeve, however, so I’m looking for a major comeback on album three.
Scott J. Herman