Last year, Brooklyn’s Big Thief released their first LP, Masterpiece, an album which solidified the Brooklyn-based quartet as one of the best new bands. Almost immediately after Masterpiece appeared on countless year-end lists, Big Thief announced their second record, Capacity. It seemed a fairly short amount of time between records, as many people, including myself, were still immensely enjoying their debut. Even with Masterpiece still lingering over, Capacity stands out quite well on its own. Adrianne Lenker, Buck Meek, Max Oleartchik, and James Krivchenia dial back a little bit on the first record’s foundation to create more of a folk sound. The result is Big Thief creating one of the year’s most gorgeous, heart-wrenching, and best albums.
Capacity begins with a stunner of a track in the aptly titled “Pretty Things”, the first of many devastating tracks on the record which attempt to unravel relationship complexities. It’s followed up by “Shark Smile”, one of the few upbeat sounding tracks on Capacity. The extra distorted guitar at the beginning supplied by Meek adds a bit of grit to the track, similarly to the title track. “Capacity” features a perfect amount of reverb over Lenker’s vocals and this hypnotic, repeated distorted guitar, which gets more and more fierce as the track rolls on. “Watering” is a stand-out track, if there was any on the album. Lenker’s vocals are absolutely incredible throughout, from the layered vocals to the almost desperate sounding calls at the end, it’s all so striking.
Part of what makes Big Thief’s record feel so personal is tracks like “Coma”, which aren’t squeaky clean but sound like a raw, candid moment rather than just a band in a studio. Lenker also digs deep into personal trauma with “Mythological Beauty”, recalling an accident from her childhood and her mother’s strength and sacrifices. “Haley” is another wonderful track with a wonderful helping of intertwined guitar and dreamy vocals.
The piano ballad, “Mary”, is without a doubt one of the year’s most devastating tracks. On his song, Lenker shares the memory of a woman she met in university and what their friendship meant to her. Full of bliss, remorse, and elation, the song is eloquence defined. The record comes to close with “Black Diamonds”, which is another wonderful track that is encapsulated by Lenker singing, “I wake up in a cold sweat on your ceiling, terrified of what your love’s revealing.”
Capacity an astounding record. It’s delicate at times, rough and gritty at others. It’s an album about the difficulties of life and the struggles that we encounter. From relationships between lovers, friends, family, about trauma and recovery. Capacity is a bit dialed down from Masterpiece, especially in the volume department. The result, however, is a true knockout record that truly stands apart from their equally amazing debut.
Capacity is out now on Saddle Creek. Buy it here, stream it here.
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