Big Thief are a band that don’t let the grass grow under their feet. Even before they had received all of the critical acclaim for last year’s debut album Masterpiece, they already had the next album in the can. After wowing crowds on their debut tour of Australia earlier this year where punters were treated to tunes from both of the records, Capacity is now ready to hit the shelves of both bricks and mortar as well as virtual stores.
The Brooklyn four piece have quickly developed into a nuanced outfit who instinctively know when to add the light and the shade. Principle songwriter Adrienne Lenker taps deeply into emotion in the songs on Capacity, whilst regularly acknowledging that she too is a flawed vessel that doesn’t ‘always do pretty things’. The album starts with a modest acoustic tune where Lenker shows her folk guitar prowess, before flicking things up a couple of gears for the upbeat minor key marvel of Shark Smile.
While it is Lenker’s voice that gets the most attention as it transitions from pensive to potent at ease, the guitar work of Buck Meek should not be underestimated. The heavy handed rhythm section of the band are also more present on this record that make it sound more like an album made by a group of friends, than a Lenker solo record.
Being raised in a religious cult until the age of four has not seen Lenker shy away from this formidable target. Mythological Beauty is a semi-autobiographical tune that is influenced by the time a falling rail spike almost ended Lenker’s life, whilst highlighting the love between mother and daughter. Throughout Capacity, self-acceptance, joy and pain are all within grasp and yet remain out of reach. This is the skill that Lenker has as a storyteller without being too linear in her approach.
The highs are definitely more expansive and the troughs are deeper, but Capacity for all its strengths does lack some of the spark of its predecessor. As a sophomore release goes this is a solid one, but Big Thief are yet to reach their capacity.