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The Orion

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The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Big Thief releases second great album this year

Big Theif album art

Having only been together for about four years now, Big Thief has quickly become a revered group in indie circles.

Their 2017 album, “Capacity” was a landmark for the genre; an intricate and intimate folk album that tackled dark subjects with gentle attention.

When Big Thief released “U.F.O.F” just earlier this year, it felt like something out of this world. It was a call to the strange and alien, perhaps even an embrace of all things unearthly. This time around, the Brooklyn-based group followed up with the more grounded “Two Hands”.

The band themselves have referred to “Two Hands” as the “earth twin” to the celestial sounds of “U.F.O.F.” Big Thief recorded “U.F.O.F.” in a log cabin, nestled in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. This time, they found themselves in the deserts of Texas to capture the stripped-down nature of “Two Hands”.

The fuzzy chords on “Forgotten Eyes” feels like a subtle nod to Neil Young, but the chords themselves only exist as background noise as lead singer Adrianne Lenker’s trembling vocals take front stage. “Forgotten tongue is the language of love,” Lenker sings.

The album moves at a sedated pace as the title track “Two Hands” chimes in with its delicate arrangement of maracas, accompanied by a xylophone and a gentle drum melody. The subdued sound picks up on “Shoulders” as we get a better taste of Lenker’s gusty vocals – “Please wake up / Touch my skin / And tell me where you’ve been,” she sings, her voice quavering amid the jangly riff.

Lead single “Not” is Big Thief at their strongest. It’s a track that has been in the band’s arsenal for years, but only now is released in the studio version.

We hear every word from Lenker as she uses the unspoken to draw out life’s details – “Not the meat of your thigh / Nor your spine tattoo / Nor your shimmery eye / Nor the wet of the dew.” From a lyrical perspective, meaning can be found in everything that is left unsaid.

The magic of Big Thief has always come with their songwriting. Lenker has nearly perfected the art of capturing so much in so few words. Through the repetition of a single word, phrase, or melody, an entire narrative unravels within her howls. It feels like each simple line she gives us is a greater mantra.

But “Two Hands” isn’t simply Big Thief returning to what they know best. After the strange shift in the scenery on” U.F.O.F”, “Two Hands” comes as a subtle reinforcement of their greatest attributes.


Kati Morris can be reached at [email protected]

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