How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last?

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How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last?
An edited and collaged artwork featuring a photograph of the younger selves of Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner and Jessica Dessner with their late grandmother Stella
Studio album by
ReleasedAugust 27, 2021 (2021-08-27)
ProducerAaron Dessner
Big Red Machine chronology
Big Red Machine
How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last?
Singles from How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last?
  1. "Latter Days"
    Released: June 29, 2021
  2. "The Ghost of Cincinnati"
    Released: June 30, 2021
  3. "Renegade"
    Released: July 2, 2021
  4. "Phoenix"
    Released: August 2, 2021

How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last? is the upcoming second studio album by American indie duo Big Red Machine, which consists of musicians Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon. It is scheduled for release on August 27, 2021, via 37D03D and Jagjaguwar record labels. Dessner stated that the album is built around themes of childhood, familial dynamics and mental health.

The album is a collaborative effort, featuring guest vocals from an array of artists; them being Anaïs Mitchell, Taylor Swift, Fleet Foxes, Ilsey, Naeem, Sharon Van Etten, Lisa Hannigan, Shara Nova, La Force, Ben Howard and This Is the Kit. Three singles were released from the album in the week of its announcement: "Latter Days" featuring Mitchell, "The Ghost of Cincinnati", and "Renegade" featuring Swift.


Big Red Machine is an American supergroup formed by musicians Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon in 2008.[1] Dessner is best known as the guitarist of the American indie rock band the National, whereas Vernon the vocalist of American indie folk band Bon Iver. Big Red Machine released their self-titled debut studio album on August 31, 2018, to positive reviews.[2] Since Big Red Machine, Dessner and Vernon have worked with R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe on the track "No Time for Love Like Now" (2019), covered Aimee Mann's "Wise Up" (2000), and more. In August 2020, Bon Iver released a song called "AUATC" featuring Bruce Springsteen, Jenny Lewis, and Jenn Wasner.[3]

In December 2020, Dessner revealed that American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, who he had worked with on her eighth studio album Folklore, had written two songs, "Closure" and "Dorothea", for Big Red Machine's forthcoming project. However, the songs landed on her ninth studio album, Evermore, instead.[4]

Writing and recording[edit]

This is all music I initially generated and feel emotionally connected to, but it has been very interesting to hear how different people relate to it and how different voices collide with it. That's what makes it special. With everyone that's on this record, there's an openness, a creative generosity and an emotional quality that connects it all together.

— Dessner on the album's nature, Uproxx[5]

Dessner described the album as a collaborative project. The collaborations are with the artists who Dessner and Vernon had been working with in 2020. Unlike its predecessor Big Red Machine, which leaned heavily on Vernon's voice, How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last? features an array of guest vocalists, such as Anaïs Mitchell, Taylor Swift, Fleet Foxes, Ilsey, Naeem (popularly known as Spank Rock), Sharon Van Etten, Lisa Hannigan, Shara Nova (of My Brightest Diamond), La Force (solo project of Ariel Engle), Ben Howard and This Is The Kit; Notably, Mitchell is featured on three tracks, while Swift is on two.[6]

Dessner provided lead vocals for the first time in his career, on three tracks; they are "Magnolia", "Brycie" and "The Ghost of Cincinnati". The latter was a song that Dessner had meant for Swift's project, but she convinced him it fit Big Red Machine's record more.[6] "The Ghost of Cincinnati" was inspired by a screenplay called Dandelion by filmmaker Nicole Riegel, who also co-wrote the lyrics. Dessner said the song is about "someone who feels like a ghost, stalking the streets of their hometown, interrogating the past and contemplating their fate".[7] Much of the album was recorded at Dessner's Long Pond Studio in Hudson Valley, New York,[8] from 2018 through 2021.[6] The collaborations with Swift, "Birch" and "Renegade", were recorded at her Los Angeles in-home studio, Kitty Committee, in the same week they had won the Album of the Year for Folklore at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards.[3] Dessner stated that Swift was "very helpful and engaged" with the band throughout the recording process.[9]

Many of the album's tracks were tested on-road at Big Red Machine concerts around the world, including "Easy To Sabotage" and "Reese". Dessner stated he was using the project "to really try different things, and find the connection between my different impulses".[8] "Phoenix" was one of the last songs written for the album. Vernon first conceived the melody of the song's chorus while driving, and Dessner forward its sketch to American singer-songwriter Robin Pecknold, the vocalist of Fleet Foxes, who Dessner had been "dreaming" to collaborate on the album. Pecknold wrote the song's verses and pre-chorus in form of a dialogue with Vernon, recalling a conversation they once had backstage in Phoenix, Arizona. Mitchell penned the lyrics to the chorus, with drums by JT Bates.[10]

Dessner said that he viewed How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last? as a version of The Last Waltz, the 1978 album by Canadian rock band the Band. For its instrumentation, he took cues the Band, and American rock band Grateful Dead as well.[10] The orchestrations of How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last? were composed by Dessner's twin brother and the National bandmate, Bryce.[8]

Promotion and release[edit]

A colorful collage with many people and overlapping edits.
A promotional collage posted by Big Red Machine, depicting all of the vocalists in How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last?

On June 27, 2021, a cryptic video teaser was posted to Big Red Machine's social media accounts. It featured layered, multi-coloured visuals, depicting Vernon and Dessner, and shots of Swift's handwriting.[11] Two days later, the band announced their second studio album, titled How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last?, would be released on August 27, 2021,[12] by the band's own record label 37D03D[13] and American independent label Jagjaguwar. The band also revealed the cover artwork and the track listing.[12] The digital, CD, vinyl and cassette versions of the album were made available for pre-order.[6][14]


"Latter Days" featuring American singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell was launched as the first single from the album, a song Vernon had debuted live in October 2020 during a Visit With Vernon live session.[5][1] Dessner stated, "It was clear to Anaïs that the early sketch Justin and I made of 'Latter Days' was about childhood, or loss of innocence and nostalgia for a time before you've grown into adulthood — before you've hurt people or lost people and made mistakes. She defined the whole record when she sang that, as these same themes kept appearing again and again."[15] "The Ghost of Cincinnati" was released as the next single on June 30, 2021.[7]

"Renegade", featuring Swift, was released on July 2, 2021, as the third single from the album.[16] It was serviced to U.S. adult album alternative radio the same day,[17] and the adult contemporary radio on July 12, 2021.[18] "Renegade" marked Big Red Machine's first entry on various record charts around the globe. In the United States, the song arrived at number 73 on the Billboard Hot 100, number seven on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart, and topped the Alternative Digital Songs Sales chart.[19] "Phoenix", featuring Mitchell and Fleet Foxes, is set to impact the U.S. adult album alternative radio as well, on August 2, 2021, as the fourth single.[20][13]

Title and artwork[edit]

Swift suggested the lyric written by Mitchell, "How long do you think it's gonna last?", in the track "Latter Days", as the title for the album.[21] The promotional photos for the album were shot and edited by photographer Graham Tolbert.[22] The cover artwork is an edited "preschool-era" photograph of Aaron and Bryce Dessner, and their sister Jessica,[8] from their visit to their grandmother Stella's nursing home in 1980. Aaron Dessner explained that his grandmother was the first person the siblings had lost to death, and that "somehow it felt fitting" to put her and themselves in the album cover.[6]

Music and lyrics[edit]

American singer+songwriter Anaïs Mitchell performing in 2010
American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift touring in 2013
Anaïs Mitchell (left) and Taylor Swift (right) are featured on multiple tracks.

How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last? is centered on themes of childhood, family dynamics and mental health.[8] It consists of 15 tracks, nine of which feature vocals from guest acts.[6] "Latter Days" is a piano ballad with an atmospheric texture, in which Mitchell's voice melds with Vernon's falsetto.[12] "Reese" is a piano-led tune. "Birch" is a duet between Swift and Vernon. "Renegade" features Swift's lead vocals, and discusses the role of fear and anxiety in love.[23] "Phoenix" is titled after Phoenix, Arizona.[24] "The Ghost of Cincinnati" is an acoustic tune, completely sung by Dessner.[23] It is about introspection and contemplation of past while taking a hometown stroll.[7] "Easy to Sabotage" incorporates recordings of its live performances at two different shows in New York.[8] "Hutch", featuring Van Etten, Hannigan and Nova, is a tribute to late Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison, a close friend of Aaron Dessner.[8][6]

Track listing[edit]

Adapted from Apple Music[25] and YouTube.

How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last? track listing
1."Latter Days" (featuring Anaïs Mitchell)
2."Reese"  5:13
3."Phoenix" (featuring Fleet Foxes and Anaïs Mitchell)
4."Birch" (featuring Taylor Swift)  5:30
5."Renegade" (featuring Taylor Swift)
  • Dessner
  • Swift
6."The Ghost of Cincinnati"
  • Dessner
  • Nicole Riegel
7."Hoping Then"  3:57
8."Mimi" (featuring Ilsey)  3:00
9."Easy to Sabotage" (featuring Naeem)  5:51
10."Hutch" (featuring Sharon Van Etten, Lisa Hannigan and Shara Nova)  3:56
11."8:22AM" (featuring La Force)  4:25
12."Magnolia"  3:56
13."June's a River" (featuring Ben Howard and This Is the Kit)  4:27
14."Brycie"  5:14
15."New Auburn" (featuring Anaïs Mitchell)  3:24
Total length:64:38


  • ^[a] signifies an additional producer


  1. ^ a b Graves, Wren (June 29, 2021). "Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner's Big Red Machine announce new album featuring Taylor Swift, Fleet Foxes, Sharon Van Etten". Consequence. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  2. ^ "Big Red Machine by Big Red Machine". Metacritic. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Minsker, Evan (June 29, 2021). "Big Red Machine (Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner) Announce New Album With Taylor Swift, Fleet Foxes, and More". Pitchfork. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  4. ^ Havens, Lyndsey (December 18, 2020). "Aaron Dessner on the 'Weird Avalanche' That Resulted in Taylor Swift's 'Evermore'". Billboard. Archived from the original on December 22, 2020. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  5. ^ a b White, Caitlin (June 29, 2021). "Big Red Machine Announces A New Project That Features Taylor Swift". Uproxx. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Daly, Rhian (June 29, 2021). "Big Red Machine announce new album, featuring two Taylor Swift cameos". NME. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  7. ^ a b c Skinner, Tom (June 30, 2021). "Big Red Machine share stripped-back new single 'The Ghost Of Cincinnati'". NME. Retrieved July 2, 2021.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Cohen, Jonathan (June 29, 2021). "Aaron Dessner, Justin Vernon Rev Up Big Red Machine With Help From Taylor Swift". Variety. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  9. ^ "Big Red Machine and Taylor Swift drop duet Renegade". Olean Times Herald. July 3, 2021. Retrieved July 3, 2021.
  10. ^ a b Minsker, Evan (July 22, 2021). "Big Red Machine, Fleet Foxes, and Anaïs Mitchell Share New Song "Phoenix"". Pitchfork. Retrieved July 22, 2021.
  11. ^ Kenneally, Cerys (June 28, 2021). "Big Red Machine are teasing new music and fans think it'll feature Taylor Swift". The Line of Best Fit. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  12. ^ a b c Blistein, Jon (June 29, 2021). "Aaron Dessner, Justin Vernon's Big Red Machine Previews New Album With 'Latter Days'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  13. ^ a b Jones, Damian (July 22, 2021). "Listen to Big Red Machine's new single 'Phoenix' featuring Fleet Foxes". NME. Retrieved July 22, 2021.
  14. ^ "How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last? - Big Red Machine". Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  15. ^ "Big Red Machine announce new album 'How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last?". DIY. June 29, 2021. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  16. ^ Hirwani, Peony (July 2, 2021). "Taylor Swift releases new single Renegade with Big Red Machine". The Independent. Retrieved July 14, 2021.
  17. ^ Trust, Gary [@gthot20] (June 30, 2021). ".@BRMadjv "Renegade," feat. @taylorswift13, being promoted to adult pop & adult alternative radio upon its release Friday, 7/2 @aaron_dessner @boniver" (Tweet). Retrieved July 1, 2021 – via Twitter.
  18. ^ "Hot/Modern/AC Future Releases". All Access Music Group. Archived from the original on July 2, 2021. Retrieved July 2, 2021.
  19. ^ Global chart performance of "Renegade":
    1. "Big Red Machine – Alternative Songs". Billboard. Archived from the original on July 14, 2021. Retrieved July 26, 2021.
    2. "Taylor Swift – Alternative Digital Song Sales". Billboard. Retrieved July 26, 2021.
    3. "Big Red Machine – Billboard Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved July 26, 2021.
    4. "Big Red Machine". Official Charts Company. Archived from the original on July 10, 2021. Retrieved July 26, 2021.
    5. "Official Independent Singles Chart Top 50". Official Charts Company. July 9, 2021. Retrieved July 26, 2021.
    6. "Big Red Machine – Hot Canadian Digital Song Sales". Billboard. Archived from the original on July 13, 2021. Retrieved July 26, 2021.
    7. "Big Red Machine – Canadian Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved July 26, 2021.
    8. "The ARIA Report: Week Commencing 12 July 2021". The ARIA Report. No. 1636. Australian Recording Industry Association. July 12, 2021. p. 4.
    9. "NZ Hot Singles Chart". Recorded Music NZ. July 12, 2021. Archived from the original on July 9, 2021. Retrieved July 26, 2021.
  20. ^ "Triple A Releases". All Access Music Group. Retrieved July 14, 2021.
  21. ^ "@aarondessner". Instagram. June 29, 2021. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  22. ^ Russell, Scott (June 29, 2021). "Big Red Machine Announce New Album, How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last?". Paste. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  23. ^ a b Cohen, Jonathan (July 2, 2021). "Big Red Machine Unveils Taylor Swift Collab, 'Renegade'". Variety. Retrieved July 2, 2021.
  24. ^ Kreps, Daniel (July 22, 2021). "Hear Big Red Machine's New Song 'Phoenix' With Fleet Foxes' Robin Pecknold". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 22, 2021.
  25. ^ Big Red Machine. "How Long Do You Think It's Gonna Last?". Apple Music (US). Jagjaguwar. Retrieved June 30, 2021.