Big Thief: Two Hands
Big Thief is known for the restrained power of their live performances, and that compelling energy is captured with a fierce resolve on every track of this album. They move along slowly, to intensify the overall impact of the music, keeping Adrianne Lenker’s vocals up front in the mix. Some of the tunes here are longtime crowd favorites, recorded for the first time, and every one of them rings with a forceful intensity. The bruised heart at the core of Lenker’s songs is magnified by the band’s instrumental prowess. They play with a subtle intensity that’s all tension and no release, adding an almost unbearable pressure to every arrangement. Lenker’s acoustic strumming opens “Not” and her desperate vocal builds up to Buck Meek’s wall of guitar noise—a growling, feedback-drenched excursion that’s one of the album’s most alarming musical moments. The singer/guitarist’s apocalyptic vision and the band’s measured tempos make every word bristle with foreboding. “Forgotten Eyes” is a mid-tempo prayer for protection, but the distorted guitar work and relentless, throbbing rhythms of James Krivchenia’s drums and Max Oleartchik’s bass suggest salvation is a long way off, if even attainable. The album closer, “Cut My Hair,” may be the quietest song in the set, but Lenker’s trembling voice gives it an ominous aura that’s intensified by Krivchenia’s crisp, understated work on the snare and Meek’s reverb-drenched guitar as it produces thick clusters of chords that hang in the air like tolling funeral bells.