It’s amazing what can happen in the span of a year.
Big Thief are back with their sophomore album, Capacity, after their breakout debut Masterpiece was released just last year. Within that time, Big Thief have grown to become one of indie rock’s biggest new names, and for good reason, too.
Everyone loves Capacity. I mean, there’s really nothing to disagree with. It’s one of those albums that you can put on in front of your 22 year-old girlfriend, your normy parents, and your dog and everyone will have a good time. It plays on sounds and influences that are so agreeable, it’s impossible to really hate.
The four piece incorporates sounds from indie rock, folk rock, Americana, and even a little country to create a sound very simple and stripped down but refreshing. It’s like the band fused Pixies with Ani DiFranco while also working at Buffalo Exchange in their spare time. Front woman Adrianne Lenker leads the charge with her beautiful and hushed vocals that feel so close it’s like she’s whispering in your ear. The whole arrangement doesn’t go for cheap, bombastic thrills: it goes for subtly and intricacy.
Good songwriting is really what’s at the core of Capacity. The first taste we got of the album, ‘Mythological Beauty,’ is definitely one of the standouts. This 90s-esque track is so easy going and summery that you can’t help but chill to it. Every time it’s on, though, I can’t help but feel like I’m in a movie spinoff of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants or something. ‘Shark Smile,’ another single off the album, is a wonderful kickoff to the album after the quiet and heartfelt opener ‘Pretty Things.’ I love the way ‘Shark Smile’ rises into the mix with the bluesy guitar and bass chugs. I got a strong Americana vibe from this one. ‘Shark Smile’ coincides well with the aptly named ‘Great White Shark,’ possibly my favorite on the track listing. This one’s got more space then the others and it feels so airy and light. I got a strong Grizzly Bear influence on this track, especially with the lead quitter work from Buck Meek.
The production is spot on throughout the album. Everything is so crisp and tight it sounds like they’re right next to you. The arpeggiated guitars on ‘Haley,’ in particular, are so clear and really cut through the mix beautifully. I love how they rise as the song gains momentum and energy. Every time this one comes on, I can’t help but feel Lenker’s nostalgia and loss. ‘Coma’ is another one of those moody tracks that makes you stop what you’re doing when it comes on. This song tells the story of going into a trauma-induced coma. I love the repeating mantra at the end, “You won’t recognize your house” — it’s so beautiful yet haunting at the same time.
There’s really isn’t a bad cut on the album. If I had to find one, it might be the title track ‘Capacity.’ It’s just a little to slow and lethargic for my taste. Even this track has some redeeming qualities, though. I love the line “We’re make believing everything is really hanging on.” It really speaks to that feeling of wanting to believe everything’s fine but knowing it’s really not. ‘Black Diamonds’ also isn’t the best album closure. The song itself isn’t too bad but it seems little lackluster to close the album with.
Capacity is an outstanding follow-up to Masterpiece in every regard. The band has perfected their folky, subtle sound to create an album worthy of a cult following. It’s not necessarily the most adventurous or innovative album out there but it knows what it is and it reaches the goals it sets for itself. Here’s to hoping for another killer album by Big Thief.