FORT WAYNE, Indiana–Indie band, Big Thief, will play The Brass Rail, 1121 Broadway, Sept. 24. The doors will open at 7:30 p.m.
About Big Thief
In its relatively short existence, Big Thief has released two albums and generated buzz among indie and alternative fans. The labels “indie” and “alternative” fit for the group because they cover a wide-spectrum of sounds. Otherwise, any attempt to properly classify Big Thief results in the use of several hyphens, and a lack of clarity. Eventually, the classification “folk-rock” feels the most satisfying–for now. I still get the feeling the correct terms haven’t been created yet.
The band formed in 2012. The quartet is completed by singer and guitarist, Adrianne Lenker; guitarist, Bruce Meek; bassist Max Oleartchik; and drummer James Krivchenia.
“Masterpiece” was their first album, and their latest, “Capacity” is new this year. Critical acclaim for the group includes words like “stunning” and “haunting” and they are accurate descriptions.
According to the group’s website, the band holed up “in a snowy winter nest in upstate New York” to record their new album. Reportedly, the group engaged in the trappings of rustic life, and recorded “Capacity” and another masterpiece was created.
Maybe an intimate setting was necessary to create the at turns ambient, fuzzy, hollow, shoegazing sounds that show up on the album.
Sound of Big Thief
Atmospheric and moody only begin to describe what Big Thief sounds like on the new album, “Capacity.” The hollow-sounding guitars are not jangly, which is fine. There is a touch of shoegazing here. However, the lyrics are not as introspective as I find shoegazing ones to be. Instead, Big Thief creates a narrative that sounds like confessions, or the remembrance of an insightful “I can’t believe that happened” kind of moment.
Big Thief’s overall vibe is what it feels like when you know someone has something important to say, and the person begins to speak, but they look at the floor. Can shyness or reticence be a means to describe music genres? Maybe.
The song begins with a set of drumbeats that remind me of the opening of “Dani California” by The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Here, the soundscape is slightly less hollow than what the band sets listeners up to expect. The guitars are more malleable, and the bass has a life of its own. Lenker’s voice fades out at the end of phrases sometimes the way sunbursts are absorbed into the horizon eventually.
The narrator tells a friend’s painful secret, and then confesses her own. The chorus is poignant and states in part: “You’re all caught up inside…”
The ability to walk through pain and present the truth is a gift that is Big Thief. The raw power of “Mythological Beauty’s” soft sung lyrics comes also from a lack of cliché. The singer’s voice is a raspy, medium soprano that create an up and down feeling. The guitars and drums create what is recognized as an “alternative” sound, but it is beyond that. Is it “alternative” alternative? Words fail.
Sometimes, when humans don’t understand a concept, they help themselves by comparing it to what they do understand. I tried this with Big Thief. There was not one single band that captured their essence, or at least the way I interpret it. The band is at once Mazzy Star, Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention, but also not.
I am taken by Big Thief’s narratives. These are real stories, not a lyrical, hazy idea of story. The details about people, settings and emotions leave audiences with a “what happens next” level of expectation.
Big Thief’s sound is perfect for modern times when we sometimes marvel at our disconnect. Big Thief encourages audiences to sit closer, listen and hear the sentiment they might have felt, but could never say.