Big Thief: Two Hands review

This ‘earth twin’ album to their ‘celestial twin’ UFOF, released in May, foregrounds Adrianne Lenker’s arresting voice and tender/brutal lyrics

‘We found his body / Naked and bare” is the visceral couplet that drags the listener, two-handed, into the new album from Big Thief. Songwriter Adrianne Lenker is known for her tender and brutal images, and this record contains some of her finest work yet.

Grunge-folk New Yorkers Big Thief are on a rapid ascent – this is already their second album of the year – and they only seem to get better with each release. They call UFOF, the album released in May, the “celestial twin”, with its spaced-out distortion and otherworldly imagery. On Two Hands, “the earth twin”, they run their fingers through the dirt. These songs were recorded in the desert, and have a sparse, guttural urgency that clings like uncomfortable 100F heat.

Two Hands is a showcase for all of Big Thief’s instruments, recorded raw and closeup. But Lenker’s undecorated voice is the most arresting of them all as it swoops from whisper to cry. On the writhing lead single Not, she sings each bruised word with real pain on the line “It’s not the hunger revealing / Not the ricochet in the cave”, before filling up the space her words evoke with a howling guitar solo. Moments later, on Wolf, you hear her gentle breath between fearful, soft lyrics. Big Thief’s power is in how they understand duality, both in the macro (with their two albums), and in the micro details. This record is best heard alongside its twin, but it’s equally powerful alone.


Aimee Cliff

The GuardianTramp

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