Published Oct 08, 2019A mere three months after releasing their magically stunning third album U.F.O.F., Big Thief surprised everyone with news that Two Hands was complete and coming this fall. After their lovingly cherished Masterpiece and Capacity, Two Hands marks the band's fourth album in just over three years, in addition to solo albums by main songwriter Adrianne Lenker, guitarist Buck Meek and drummer James Krivchenia during the small windows in between. It's an unprecedented pace for any band, made even more impressive when you consider the level of quality from these ultra-prolific musicians.
While U.F.O.F. made peace with the supernatural forces that exist around us, Two Hands grounds itself firmly on Earth, intertwining the roots of life with dusty, blood-soaked colours and rough, stony textures. It's no less mystical than its "celestial twin," as the band calls it, but instead, Two Hands views life's spiritual power from a more instinctual perspective.
Songs like "Forgotten Eyes" and "The Toy" give voice to the marginalized, and are indirect commentaries about homelessness and acts of violence. Max Oleartchik's bass lines firmly anchor Big Thief's wavering numbness, while each of Krivchenia's snare hits intentionally crackles and disrupts any stillness and apathy that develop. Like all Big Thief albums, Lenker's warm and protective timbre consoles us in lullaby-like melodies, yet warns us about our deeply flawed world. On Two Hands' title track, Lenker's asymmetrical finger-picked guitar riff takes us through a mesmeric journey of lucid curiosity.
The incredible one-two punch of "Shoulders" and "Not," both of which have been live staples for years, oscillates with penetrating dread and naked potency, unlike anything Big Thief has done before. On "Shoulders," Lenker sings "Please wake up, touch my skin and tell me where you've been," as her trembling voice expels profound helplessness in the desperate search for beauty in death. The six-minute "Not" is the band in their rawest, loudest state. "Not the meat of your thigh, nor your spine tattoo, nor your shimmery eye, nor the wet of the dew," Lenker persistently growls over Meek's kindling guitar, giving way to an unkempt and searing guitar solo.
Two Hands expresses humanity's destructive, disconnected mind and its impact on the soil, our flesh, and what it means to survive in the depleting state of our world. Big Thief's wildly earnest melodies are flecked with pure clarity, and the four-piece have clearly achieved an unparalleled special chemistry with each other.
Paired with the dream-like, celestial quality of U.F.O.F., Two Hands shows Big Thief's loving view of the world can be immeasurably intimate and intangible, but also be bare-boned and brutally honest. (4AD)