The album is the kind of major statement that still gets the hype – now usually reserved for pop stars because indie rock’s relevance has been on shaky ground – with music writers proclaiming the band at once”miracle” And one “enigma.”
So what does the possibly miraculous and possibly enigmatic indie rock band look like at the top of critical minds on a spring night in 2022 during a pretty crowded anthem on the DC waterfront?
Vocalist Adrienne Lenker is the most compelling reason why the band is worth your time. Lenker works on opposite ends of the audience spectrum: in the best songs of Big Thief, she coos tenderly or howls at the sky. Even the 30-year-old singer’s impressionistic lyrics are better absorbed by the same dichotomy. Lenker can think about both physical bodies and their place in the cosmos (as in the charming John Prine-esque of the closer night “Spud Infinity”) as well as the banality of flipping through your phone while watching a movie with your partner (as she does in the exquisite “Certitude”).
The contradictions became striking in the album and the concert opens “Change”, a unique song that seems to bottle the beautiful highs and deep desire that characterize Big thief. At the slow-paced start, there are beautiful, oblique references to immortality, death, and welcoming the unknown. Singing it on Thursday night, Lenker began throwing his voice out in a heartbreaking crescendo to anyone who would listen, in a performance which evoked the rupture of balance felt during the loss of a partner.
“Yet what I find / Is you always on my mind / Could I feel happy for you / When I hear you talking with her like before? / Can I release it all / When I look at you Holding her like you do held me once?
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Lenker’s vocals went incredibly haywire on “Not,” one of the most intense and enjoyable songs of the night on, well, nothing really. But it’s the way Lenker discards language in favor of using his voice to generate the momentum of a locomotive before a wild roar of a guitar that cements this song as one of the most wonderfully unbalanced, catchy and fun rock songs ever. recent memory.
On their record, Big Thief makes a few missteps. It’s sometimes frustrating to hear a band that doesn’t want to crank out the Band or Fleetwood Mac style anthems and instead spends time dithering with experimental grooves that just sound good.
But perhaps it’s no surprise that in concert they sound like a complex, even revealing indie rock band.
Normally, they are more likely to be on the road than sitting. You could sense a certain telepathy between them on stage as guitarist Buck Meek and drummer James Krivchenia deftly scribbled riffs and beats around Lenker. Bassist Max Oleartchik floated around his bandmates, and glancing at each other, the quartet seemed to be in close communion, focused more on playing for each other than the audience.
Maybe Big Thief has has unlocked a secret to bringing indie rock back to prominence: keep playing it together and, better yet, keep playing it live.
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Prude tryna sound like a band not trying so hard