Note: NPR’s First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.
Big Thief is a band bound by great songs. Its first album opens with singer Adrianne Lenker on acoustic guitar, recorded on what sounds like an old cassette machine. By the second song, you hear the blossoming of an artist into a band, a community, a force.
Big Thief sounds warm and muscular, with moments that comfort and explode nestled closely together. “Masterpiece” was the first music I heard from the group, and it’s one of the best songs I’ve heard this year. Lenker’s quivering voice is emboldened and frail, while the bass (Max Oleartchik), guitar (Buck Meek) and most powerfully the drums (Jason Burger) detonate and punctuate those words.
‘Cause I saw the masterpiece, she looks a lot like you
Wrapping your left arm around my right
Ready to walk me through the night
In many moments on Big Thief’s debut album, characters are pulled in time, through distances, on roads, through love and rain. It isn’t a clear journey, but it always feels compassionate, with its humanity and melody front and center. There’s always something solid to hold on to; like good friends, these songs don’t let go. I like my music that way.