Big Thief’s “Capacity”

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If you’ve listened to any of the tracks from Big Thief’s new album entitled Capacity, then you will recognize the trademark poetic imagery set against a canvas of haunting melody. It will surely come as no surprise that this indie band from Brooklyn is playing to sold out crowds in the United States and Europe throughout their 2018 tour.

It may also go without saying that Big Thief is enjoying positive reviews. Will Hermes described Adrianne Lenker as “a romantic folk-rock poet of the first order” in his review for Rolling Stone. Her words are at once captivating, unnerving, and soothing. The lyrics’ subtle twists combined with Lenker’s delicate vocals are driven by dissonant chords that connect each image. The juxtaposition of the elements in the title track do, in fact, remain bound to one another much like the consonance that introduces the first stanza.

It’s a tricky combination of pieces that flow together but are difficult to pin down. “Capacity” is, according to Lenker, based on a dream she had the night before writing this piece. There’s a stream of consciousness effect that leads the listener from one moment to the next in a series of vignettes. It’s the capacity of imagination that binds them.

Perhaps that’s why it is difficult to find an exact label for Big Thief’s style of music. Asked in an interview for Newsweek if she identified the band’s music as folk-rock, Lenker responded, “I don’t identify with genre.” Their music, like genre, is challenging to pin down. You get in the neighborhood of identifying what it might be, but finding the exact street, let alone the house number, is a matter of interpretation. As Lenker states in the same interview, “Any time you bring something out of an intangible space . . . into the realm of words . . . You lose something when you try to communicate belief to someone.” Riding through Big Thief’s landscape is an intriguing journey.

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