Release Date: Oct 11, 2019
Record label: 4AD
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
For anyone who found Big Thief's U.F.O.F. too nuanced, ephemeral, or cerebral, the same year follow-up of Two Hands, on relative terms, is a hook to the jaw. The album is all skin, bone, and sinew—the hands of the album's title serve to both harm and heal. Two Hands feels more of the natural progression from Masterpiece to Capacity, leaving U.F.O.F.
Neil Young did it twice in the '70s, and more recently Beach House managed it in 2015 with Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars, now Big Thief have done it with U.F.O.F. and their new release, Two Hands. In some ways, U.F.O.F. and Two Hands represent that classic notion of Yin and Yang ….
Coming from a band who, just five months ago, materialized somewhere deep in a forest with a mystical set of songs wrapped in a vast, alien cosmos--a band who, in order to summon the perfect squall of noise, claimed to have suspended an electric guitar from the ceiling of a barn and batted it around like a piñata in a circle of amplifiers--Two Hands is jarringly earthbound. For their latest album, the Brooklyn quartet Big Thief invites you to join them live and unadorned in the studio for the span of 10 songs. "Hand me that cable/Plug into anything," Adrianne Lenker sings, moments after issuing a more basic instruction: "Cry with me/Cry with me.
Following quickly on the heels of the spacey, artful U.F.O.F. -- by five months, to be exact -- Big Thief's fourth long-player, Two Hands, was recorded just days after its contrasting sister album. However, while U.F.O.F. was tracked at a wooded facility outside of Seattle, the band deliberately moved to the 100-plus-degree environs of a desert studio west of El Paso for Two Hands.
Less than six months after the release of 'U.F.O.F.', Brooklyn folk outfit Big Thief release the "earth twin" to their third album. The swift turnaround of 'Two Hands' might not have been anticipated, but it's little surprise that album four is every bit as enticing as the band's previous works. 'Forgotten Eyes' provides an early moment of magic. It's backed by an ambling beat, chiming acoustic strings and the kind of fuzzy chords that would feel at home on a Neil Young record.
Big Thief's musical passion has driven them to release a consistent stream of albums every year for the last few, both as a band and as solo artists in the cases of Adrianne Lenker and Buck Meek. Significantly, this hasn't affected the quality of their output, and making the leap to 4AD, with bigger sales and touring expectations, doesn't seem to have slowed them down either. In fact, it might have even put more of a fire under their backsides, as their fourth album Two Hands comes a mere matter of months after the glorious U.F.O.F..
The Lowdown: There's a scene late in Paul Schrader's 2018 film First Reformed where Reverend Ernst Toller, a priest in the midst of a personal crisis played by Ethan Hawke, smokes a joint with his grieving parishioner, played by Amanda Seyfried, and together they embark on what she calls the "Magical Mystery Tour. " They smoke a joint together, levitate, and have out-of-body experiences. The camera follows them floating over the Earth, taking in all of its natural beauty in the form of mountaintops and lush forests before showing dumpsters filled with rubber tires, deforestation, and wanton environmental damage.
During an interview earlier this year, Big Thief front woman Adrianne Lenker explained that what drives her the most is being constantly aware of the fact that she's alive; that she exists and so does everything else. Through moments of gut-wrenching intimacy and thunderous intensity, 'Two Hands' confirms that. Sister album to the celestial 'U.F.O.F', released earlier this year, this record - the "earth twin" as the band describes it - is a raw, primitive nod to the planet we inhabit and our connection to it.
S uch is the rich vein of songwriting form that Brooklyn quartet Big Thief have hit upon, Two Hands comes just five months after the release of the excellent UFOF. While that album was recorded in a log cabin in Washington State, this one was captured outdoors in the Texan desert, and there's a loose, live feel to the arrangements. Although the band refer to it as "the Earth twin", in contrast to UFOF being "the celestial twin", stylistically it's not a million miles from its sister album.