Big Thief - Capacity

by Nathan Fidler Rating:5 Release Date:2017-06-09

It was only last year that Big Thief graced us with their unassuming mammoth of a tune in ‘Masterpiece’ and the tidy little album of the same name. This year they release Capacity, their second album, in what seems like an unprecedented turnaround for a modern band, the kind usually burdened by the initial success with touring.

While their first album was by no means a full 10, this album does seem to suffer from the speedy return to the studio. Whether the songs were already there or not, the vulnerable folk act of the first album has been ratcheted up another notch, taking what was an understated vibe and turning into a depressing mallet to beat you with.

‘Shark Smile’ is about as close as you will come to any kind of real hook, with shades of Springsteen in the vocal melody until the sweetly playful “she said ooh, baby, take me” as a chorus.

The opening track to the album, ‘Pretty Things’ sums up the overarching feel to the album, with an intimate encounter drizzled out of sombre guitar picking. Adrianne Lenker, frontwoman for the band, gives a great vocal performance, lending extra weight to lines both simple “pressing his head to my temple, his head was a temple” and ornate “there’s a woman inside of me, there’s one inside of you, too”.

Haunting isn’t the right word to describe this album, because it never really gets under your skin in the way you might hope. Tracks like ‘Coma’ and ‘Watering’ are played too safe, so that for every half-decent piece of lyrical mastery, there is a huge puddle of dour guitar or a listless drum crash going nowhere.

Knowing how capable this band are, and with a good label like Saddle Creek behind them, they surely won’t crack under pressure. It might take some work to get a full album of worthy tunes squeezed from them though.

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