Big Thief – Capacity

Album Review by Chris Ogden | 05 Jun 2017
Album title: Capacity
Artist: Big Thief
Label: Saddle Creek
Release date: 9 Jun

Brooklyn-based indie band Big Thief’s second album Capacity, released by Omaha’s famous Saddle Creek label, shows that despite their name they are the masters of little details, owing in no small part to the rich lyrics of their singer Adrianne Lenker.

Recorded in snowy upstate New York, Capacity is a warmly produced and soothing record which doesn’t fail to show off Big Thief’s three strengths: Buck Meek’s gently twisting guitar work, James Krivchenia’s crisp, off-kilter drums and the wavering voice of Lenker, whose sympathetic storytelling is the band’s most powerful quality.

On first listen, Capacity’s sound can be so subtle that Lenker’s stories slip past you, such as Shark Smile, a Dire Straits-tinged strum about a car accident which turns out to be more powerful in its concept than its execution, and the haunting Watering. Slowly but surely, though, Capacity hits: the distant hiss of Coma gradually expands into a dreamy waltz, while its centrepiece is Mythological Beauty, Capacity’s most propulsive and personal track which meditates on the sacrifices made by young parents like Lenker’s mother. ‘You’re all caught up inside / But you know the way,' Lenker coos reassuringly, her empathy life-affirming.

By the time Capacity gets to Haley’s winding acoustic folk and the spare piano ballad Mary, the band’s quiet energy becomes clear. Big Thief aren’t the sort of band that will always hit you suddenly, such is their subtlety and restraint, but on Capacity they prove that when they do it’s powerful and memorable.  

Listen to: Mythological Beauty, Haley, Mary