ALBUM REVIEW: Big Thief Comes Back to Earth on ‘Two Hands’

If fans were hoping for a more direct follow-up to 2017’s ‘Capacity’ in ‘U.F.O.F.’, they finally got it here.

How does a band follow up one of the best rock indie rock records of the year? Big Thief fans weren’t expecting to answer this question so soon: U.F.O.F. was just released in May. But here we are with Two Hands, an album dubbed the former’s “Earth twin.”

That may be the best descriptor of this 40-minute album. Big Thief sticks to the more identifiable tropes of indie rock, like distorted guitar solos (“Not”) and gritty ballads (“Shoulder”). Yet the band remains as intimate and sophisticated as ever. The title track sparkles over glistening guitars and playful percussion (even if Adrianne Lenker’s words are full of uncertainty). The subtle harmonies throughout “The Toy” add a gentleness to a song presumably about gun violence. If fans were hoping for a more direct follow-up to 2017’s Capacity in U.F.O.F., they’ve finally got it here.

If anything, Two Hands serves as a love letter to their fans. Several of the album’s tracks have been staples at Big Thief’s live shows, and all were recorded live just days after wrapping up U.F.O.F. With this release, Big Thief has literally packaged a live show for us to carry around.

And for those not yet on board with this Brooklyn-based quartet, Two Hands is certainly the best introduction. Lenker’s crooning on “Wolf” bears a passing, yet distinct, similarity to Lou Reed. The touch of country twang on “Replaced” is enough to get Wilco fans on board. The gloomy chords on “Cut My Hair,” coupled with Lenker’s falsetto, sound like a stripped-down Radiohead cut. The stunning “Not” will stop anyone in their tracks.

So how does a band follow-up one of the best indie rock records of the year? For Big Thief, the answer is obvious: by releasing another.

Score: 🤝🤝🤝🤝🤝 / 5