Big Thief


Written by: LL on 19/10/2017 14:04:15

Big Thief is a four-piece indie/folk rock band based in Brooklyn, New York and earlier this year their 2016 debut record "Masterpiece" found its way to my ears, impressing me in many ways, not least due to the range of different kinds of indie energy levels it showcases. "Capacity" is their sophomore album, then, and it continues the buzzing style of their debut, mixing in some alternative country vibes while also leaving more space for quiet, intimately recorded pieces where the warm vocals of their singer Adrianne Lenker are front and center.

Initially, I might as well say that I'm not fond of too much fuzz and distance in the recording of indie songs and that I have a soft spot for synchronicity between guitar riffs and catchy vocal melodies. "Capacity" is an album that has a general movement from songs dominated by the first, to songs with great amounts of the latter and thus it grows on me a lot when I listen to it from start to finish. Compared with the band's debut, I find that "Capacity" doesn't kick off with quite as strong melodies, several of its first song lines lingering on while the soundscapes of the fuzzy guitars in the background are more interesting to follow on their own. After the quiet first track "Pretty Things" with its compelling downwards slope in the chorus and up close singing, this is especially the case for the next three tracks to varying degrees, the title track "Capacity" being the most constantly fuzzed out guitar song that just maintains the same drowsy energy level throughout.

It's the fifth song "Coma" that is the first to really make me pay attention. It changes up the album's sound simply because the recording is filtered differently and the guitars here are acoustic and feel closer to us than on the previous songs. As its most recognizable part kicks in around halfway through with eerie layers of vocals singing a sweet melody, its sound really makes an impact despite the toned down expression. The really strong section of the record begins with song number seven though. "Mythological Beauty" which was also the first single to be released from the album has a classic structure with several repeated pieces, changing between a verse and a chorus that both have staying power melodically, sometimes underscored directly by the simple riff of the guitars and sometimes extending it further. "Objects" then continues with a firm rhythm that sort of breaks up the chorus in a compelling dance between elements while "Haley" features a more atmospheric sound with sliding notes that opens up the album further. Next, it culminates in the melancholic ballad "Mary" with its clear, captivating lyrics that have a hypnotic quality over the constant droning opening of the song that then moves on to soft piano backing.

For me, then, this album is like an upwards moving curve. It's not that the first half of the record doesn't have redeeming elements, like the upbeat tempo and the guitar that seems to have its own life in the latter half of "Shark Smile" or the haunting ending of "Watering" where Lenker repeats slightly echoing versions of the words "Come / to me". The odd rhythmicity of "Great White Shark" is likewise alluring in the middle of the album but compared to the quality of what comes after, it just doesn't have the same effect. "Black Diamonds" that ends the album has compelling lyrics much like the first song of the album and a nice slide of instruments in the chorus but it ends very suddenly, feeling weirdly unfinished. The album overall shows promise and like its predecessor, it showcases different temperaments of the genre although it is generally calmer than "Masterpiece". The highlights mentioned above are sure to follow me for a while, though, and I would recommend them to any music fan with a heart for calm indie rock or an interest in the bands mentioned below.

Download: Mary, Mythological Beauty, Coma, Haley
For The Fans Of: Whitney, Kevin Morby, Pinegrove, Parquet Courts, Cocorosie

Release date 09.06.2017
Saddle Creek

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