Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Big Thief

  • Masterpiece [Saddle Creek, 2016] *
  • Capacity [Saddle Creek, 2017] B+
  • U.F.O.F. [4AD, 2019] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Masterpiece [Saddle Creek, 2016]
Fragile, noisy images of a love perpetually out of reach ("Masterpiece," "Paul") *

Capacity [Saddle Creek, 2017]
Disrupting her delicate, speechlike soprano with unpredictable guitar comps acoustic and electric, Adrianne Lanker and her guys mean to prove that women needn't be loud to be strong and men needn't be needy. As the explicitly heterosexual opener puts it: "There's a woman inside of me / There's one inside of you, too." Admittedly if not proudly best suited to headphones or computer speakers, the band is subtle, arty, obscure--you know "Great White Shark" references an automobile accident only because Lanker said so in an interview, and "Watering" attenuates the brutality of sexual assault with imagery so sensationalistic it's abstract. But throughout she evokes the discordant ins, outs, and in-betweens of friendship, family, and you bet the romantic bond. B+

U.F.O.F. [4AD, 2019]
The deepest satisfaction of Big Thief is hearing something manifestly fragile hold together. Notions and emotions so fleeting they're gone before you can pin them down embody and then vanquish uncertainty before it can settle into the depression that may well lurk below. Each quiet, tiny-voiced tune emerges like a crocus pushing through the snow, and how much you enjoy as opposed to admire it will depend on how moving you find minor miracles. Not terribly fragile myself, I identify most readily with the subtle blatancies that sometimes surface--the quiet boom of the lead-in to "Jenni," or "Cattails" with its noticeable beat and subtle guitar hook sounding almost martial in this sonic context. But I'm definitely touched by the whole. A-