Big Thief has slowly built a big and devoted fanbase. With four great albums in three years and a real indie vibe, it’s easy to fall in love with them.
While it wouldn’t be a bad idea to present them chronologically, for their LPs show a real progression, I think that I will start with this song. For me, and many indieheads out there, ‘Not’ is the best song of 2019. It is rare when that happens with a not-so-famous band, and a song that doesn’t even have a million views on Youtube. But something is clear, it is not an accident that it touched the hearts of so many people. The raw emotion of Big Thief is clearly visible. It looks like Adrianne Lenker is building up the song for the -amazing- guitar solo at the end, but she is building it up with these “not, nor…” for one sentence. At 2:23, when she says “It’s not the hunger revealing”. The first 2 minutes, then the slowing down right before that part… everything leads to it. The rest of the album also has some gems, like ‘Forgotten Eyes’ and ‘Those Girls’.
Let’s go back to the beginning. In 2016, Big Thief releases Masterpiece. It might sound pretentious for a first album, or for any album to be honest, but it was a bit prophetic. It showcases everything the Brooklyn band is capable of: calm, soothing songs (like the crowd-favorite ‘Paul’, or the introductory ‘Little Arrow’), but also guitar-filled hits (the eponymous song, or the amazing ‘Real Love’ who has one of the best guitar ending ever). We can already hear Adrianne‘s emotional voice and songwriting, and the perfect harmony with the backing vocals by Buck Meek. On ‘Animals’, James Krivchenia show us what he is capable of on the drums -so good that he doesn’t like to play it live. And of course, Max Oleartchik complements the whole with his bass.
Capacity & Live shows
I decided to write about their live shows along with the album Capacity for one reason: ‘Mary’. The song that got me into them. The calmest of their calm songs. When I wrote “devoted fan base” in the introduction, it’s not just because, it shows during their concerts: when they perform ‘Mary’, you can hear a pin drop. Everyone shuts up, everyone focuses, everyone’s heart fills up. Some let a tear drop, others smile profusely. But the sophomore album also has other amazing songs… like ‘Shark Smile’, which literally starts with an outro, before going on with a hooking chorus. Or ‘Mythological Beauty’, with the vocal melody of Adrianne, or any song of the LP. Also, during their live shows, Lenker and Meek sometimes perform their own songs. These are great, but the best is when you can see the alchemy between the band members. They are even going on the Radiohead direction, playing unreleased tracks, some of which will probably be released in years. That’s the signature of a confident band.
If ‘Not’ was their best song of 2019, U.F.O.F was clearly their best album. Wait, what? Yeah… they released two excellent EP in the span of months. They recorded it in a secluded studio surrounded by lush forest in the Washington State. You can even hear the inspiration, by contrast to Two Hands, the follow-up and latest album, who was recorded near the hot and dry El Paso. U.F.O.F propelled them into a bigger dimension. The strenght of the album comes from each of the songs, there is no “hit” per se. Even if there are some fan-favorites, like the eponymous song, or ‘Cattails’. Big Thief even rerecorded two of Adrianne’s songs for this LP: ‘Terminal Paradise’ and ‘From’. To be listened in full, for the best experience.