Big Thief: Two Hands review – a more earthbound follow-up to UFOF

(4AD)

Such is the rich vein of songwriting form that Brooklyn quartet Big Thief have hit upon, Two Hands comes just five months after the release of the excellent UFOF. While that album was recorded in a log cabin in Washington State, this one was captured outdoors in the Texan desert, and there’s a loose, live feel to the arrangements. Although the band refer to it as “the Earth twin”, in contrast to UFOF being “the celestial twin”, stylistically it’s not a million miles from its sister album. Once again, its hushed songs, lit up by Adrianne Lenker’s spellbinding voice, only gradually reveal the subtle hooks at their kernels.

The biggest touchstones are early REM and Cowboy Junkies, and there’s a delightful yearning to Replaced, a ghostly beauty to the delicate Wolf. In the main, their preference for restraint over loudness, as on Shoulders, only makes it more powerful. The exception here isNot, which possesses an urgency at odds with the rest of the songs, Lenker’s voice sounding increasingly despairing before an extended and enjoyably rambling, Neil Young-indebted guitar solo takes over. In one sense the band are correct with their taxonomy for their two 2019 sets: Two Hands is more earthbound than UFOF – in that there’s nothing here that quite matches that album’s astonishing peaks.

Listen to Forgotten Eyes by Big Thief.

Contributor

Phil Mongredien

The GuardianTramp

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