July 19, 2023

Big Thief - "Vampire Empire"

Big Thief have shared the studio recording of their recent live favorite "Vampire Empire."

During Big Thief's stop at Radio City Music Hall earlier this year, their largest New York City show yet, guitarist Buck Meek jokingly said "don't worry it's coming" in regards to a remark about when the band might finally release a dud of a song. During that same show they played the song "Vampire Empire," a track that had recently been shared via their performance on Colbert and one that has since become a live staple and new fan favorite. Whatever Meek was referring to that night wasn't in relation to this one, however. "Vampire Empire," much like the song "Love in Mine," is (for now) a one-off single that highlights the band's relentless ability to write consistently great songs, not all of which appear on their albums. It also further proves the band is still currently operating at their peak and show no signs of stepping down. After five excellent albums, many must assume that the gas must be running out and that at some point this band must falter, yet time and again the band has delivered on all accounts. This one is a feral track that finds Adrienne Lenker's vocals raw and scratchy, backed by some loose grooves, and overall a bit more rag-tag than anything on their epic double album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You. There are the familiar elements here, the ragged guitar that cuts through when the band comes together, ramshackle percussion, the isolated vocal-drum moment that suspends briefly in the air, before the swell comes and lets Lenker cut loose with her powerful voice. It's an off the cuff number that still retains a lot of the raggedness of the live version, but is a bit more crystalized and shaped. It can feel a tad hyperbolic to place the band in a category with the legends before them who released bulletproof discographies all within a very tight timeline, but to leave them off would be a discredit to the magnitude of their catalogue thus far. Until that dud arrives, Big Thief have made it clear that they're functioning above the rest and their imperial phase seems to be far from over.

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