By Celica Cook, SBM Student Life Editor
Big Thief released their second album of 2019 on Friday. The album is called Two Hands, and it has already been a wild success. Pitchfork is calling it the best new album, labeling it as “raw, tactile, and essential.”
Listening to this album is like floating on still water. The soft echo of the electric guitar will have you in a trance as Adrianne Lenker’s sweet vocals drip like honey from the tracks. Lenker’s lyrics are filled with honest heartache. “Forgotten hands are the ones which we choose to let go of but it is no less a bruise” she sings in the first song on the album, “Forgotten Eyes”. The poetry cuts deep as she bears the scars left by past lovers.
The album gradually turns grimmer in songs like “Shoulders” with lyrics like “the blood was on your shoulders/ they found you at the corner/ your head was doubled over/ and the blood of the man/ who’s killing our mother with his hands/ is in me.” Lenker’s sweet, silky vocals turn into throaty grunge sounds in “Not”. Big Thief is known for its softer, folkier sound. “Not” sounds like a new experiment, as Lenker’s voice turns harsh and gravelly as she passionately sings about the things in life that are not bringing her any peace. “Not” is the most listened to song on the album according to Pitchfork. There seems to be a sense of hopelessness in the lyrics as Lenker sings about trying to move on from her pain, but not ever figuring out what it means to do so.
The last song on the album is a chilling picture of Lenker’s despair. “Please cut my hair” she sings. “Take me to the kitchen/what are the chances you have a scissor?” The song gradually gets more haunting as ghostlike background vocals layer the music with shadows and soft echoing sounds. Lenker almost sounds as if she is crying as she sings the next set of words, “You ask me to leave you, I won’t/ not while the knife is at your throat.”
It is not clear exactly what or who Lenker’s songs are about. A few of them sound like letters of lament for lovers past. Some are reminiscent of Lenker’s childhood, and the painful memories associated with her family.
Two Hands is as mysterious as previous albums from Big Thief. There is something raw and beautiful about the mystery of the material and the emotional depth behind it, making this album a true treasure to listen to.