What You Should Be Listening To: Big Thief

You should definitely be listening to Big Thief’s new album Two Hands. The most notable thing about the band is lead singer Adrianne Lenker’s voice, which sounds like the perfect blend of a tremble and a prayer (you’ll have to listen to get what I mean). If I embrace my inner emo, then I confess to loving lyrics you can wear on your sleeve without ambiguity or shame. The second track, “Forgotten Eyes,” will give you all of that, with lines like “Everyone needs a home and deserves protection” and “forgotten tongue is the language of love” leading the way. 

Overall, the band has an indie/hipster sort of sound, with your standard guitar, drums, and bass driving the songs along like an old Cadillac with the top down–that’s where Lenker’s voice comes in, as an instrument of its own, and you can hear this perfectly on the album’s title track, which opens “You somehow let me down / both hands and a gentle man / You could not take me through / new plans or tell me who.”

In terms of the best track, there are many to choose from, but right now I’m listening to “Shoulders” on repeat. It brandishes the crunchy open guitar chords that I am a sucker for (and therefore you should be too). Yet cutting against this upbeat, rocking sound are lyrics pointing to a family history of domestic violence: “They found you in the morning / the blood was on your shoulders / they found you at the corner / your head was doubled over / and the blood of the man / who killed my mother with his hands / it’s in me / it’s in me / it’s in my veins.” Powerful stuff that speaks directly to one of our most pressing societal problems.

I would list other good songs, but all ten tracks are fantastic and make this album completely worth it. Be prepared for different moods at a different pace, which make this record feel like a fresh look at our normal days.

Two Hands gets 5 out of 5 chicken wings.

By Dr. Chuck Rybak

Chuck Rybak is the Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, where he teaches literature and creative writing. He is the cohost of the Canonball podcast.

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