Big Thief
Capacity


4.5
superb

Review

by owl beanie STAFF
June 10th, 2017 | 91 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: songs for your living room, sung from someone else's

Capacity is half asleep. Capacity is a friend who has survived through more than anyone should have to. Capacity is kind. It’s in desperate need of an audience, too, and I’m fascinated by its story; even if I have to colour in some of the details with my own paint. I am not a good painter, but I am stirred by what’s already in front of me.

“You won’t recognize your own house”

Why? What caused the titular coma here? The fine points escape me. I think what I can glean from Adrienne Lenker’s poetry, apart from the fact that I have a horrible eye for detail, is that capacity is an end and not a means. The lyrics are artefacts of longing, of people “all caught up inside”, like they’re snagged between trauma and hope.

“Oh, by the grace of this dream”

But this record is intently focused on the hope. These songs unfold with a whisper, polite and sincere in a way that only a quiet optimist can be. For perspective, the loudest this album gets arrives towards the end of Great White Shark. Even then, the trebly, folk-rock guitars bounce off each other with finesse (an oxymoron, but it rings true), completely wary that the fragile tales they uphold could well shatter from the noise.

“I was just five and you were twenty-seven / praying, ‘don’t let my baby die’”

The tales may be fragile, but Lenker is not defined by her suffering. Though these memories are vivid and painfully inescapable, she stays on the outside looking in, deconstructing events in order to learn from them, and to empathise with every perspective that isn’t her own. Coma -- a song of radio static and comfortable silence – plays like the soundtrack to a sepia-toned home video, and Lenker studies that scratched old film until she can relate the subjects to her present day. She is wiser for it.

“Evelyn’s kiss was oxygen”

Melody and poetry dovetail into one another perfectly throughout Capacity – the hushed acoustic tones that make up the record allow Lenker a sense of what is important. People are important, and so she gives them names and positions them at the centre of her narrative. Little things are important, and so she weighs them down with the solemn strumming of her guitar. Processing emotions is important, and so she clears her head of debris with a poetic passage or two (seriously, the use of imagery in Mary is incredibly poignant). In every instance, the drums plod along gently, the guitars shimmer and the voice sighs. It gives these chapters, these self-contained stories, plenty of room to breathe.

“You have a mythological beauty”

This is an album that refuses to be represented by your favourite songs, because the very concept of a ‘favourite’ is reductive. It doesn’t exist for you to move the catchiest hooks to a Spotify playlist and it sure as hell doesn’t exist for you to forget about it as soon as it’s finished. In fact, the record is a tight-knit family of songs that are profoundly introspective and affecting. Big Thief are a smart band, and I guess irony is not lost on them: Masterpiece did an excellent job of proving they had the Capacity to craft some beautiful folk-rock tunes, but Capacity really, genuinely comes close to being a Masterpiece. And we’re only two albums in.



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user ratings (180)
3.7
great
other reviews of this album
Haygoody (4)
Subtle and dreamy in its approach, Capacity underscores the emotional power of storytelling through...


Comments:Add a Comment 
verdant
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2017


2424 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i tried to format this in a way that highlights the lyrics because they're seriously amazing. i hope that's okay



also i am so close to 5'ing this

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2017


3112 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Wonderful write-up. Was anticipating Freddie's, but two excellent reviews can't hurt what sounds like an incredible album. I loved Masterpiece, so need to listen to this now. Was too preoccupied before, dunno if I'm ready for this. Love the review a lot.

Digging: Leonard Cohen - Thanks For The Dance

verdant
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2017


2424 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

oh shit i had no clue he was reviewing this, i thought he'd leave it at a soundoff. oh well, i'm perfectly happy for his to blow mine out of the water.



anyway, thanks blushful. your kind words mean a lot

dfevil085
June 10th 2017


1490 Comments


Saw these guys last weekend. I need to check this out.

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
June 10th 2017


8841 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Haha hoping to get mine up in a couple hours but don't sell yourself short and this spectacular album needs all the exposure it can get, pos'd

Digging: Vi Som Alskade Varandra Sa Mycket - Det Onda. Det Goda. Det Vackra. Det Fula.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2017


25239 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Mythological Beauty is perfect

Digging: Origami Angel - Somewhere City

ashcrash9
June 11th 2017


3092 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

gonna have to give this a really close lyrical listen, I guess

I feel like this band should be right up my alley but Masterpiece was super underwhelming to me and my first listen of this feels a little more well-constructed but still kinda aimless



great review though, definitely captures what should be the appeal of their music and what probably works for most listeners but just doesn't for me yet

luci
June 11th 2017


12070 Comments


it's very run-of-the-mill instrumentally, lyrics are the only redeeming factor for me

verdant
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2017


2424 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thanks guys



freddie: you sure you don't want me to try and get this taken down dude? you're a great writer and i don't wanna step on your toes

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
June 11th 2017


8841 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Dude not even, it's a great review! I'd never request something like that

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2017


3112 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

More reviews the better, Jack, two good reviews will give this greater exposure. Wouldn't be surprised if a staffer reviewed this, too. Anyway, looking forward to yours Freddie. Loving this on first listen.

verdant
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2017


2424 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i suppose, and thanks freddie. looking forward to yours!



i know how good blushful!?

GhettoHmbrglr
June 11th 2017


987 Comments


haven't listened to this front to back but the girl i've been hanging out with pretty much always has it playing when we are in her car. definitely solid stuff.

verdant
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2017


2424 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"definitely solid stuff" [2]

Atari
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2017


25239 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

I think the second half of the album is where it's at. Everything from Mythological Beauty through the closing track is pretty damn good, but I still haven't come around to the first half as much yet.



missing some of the more quirky aspects "Masterpiece" had, but does seem like more of a grower





verdant
Staff Reviewer
June 12th 2017


2424 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah it's still growing for me, and i liked it to begin with

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
June 12th 2017


3112 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I agree about the second half being better. Pretty Things is beautiful, but this ends very, very well.

verdant
Staff Reviewer
June 12th 2017


2424 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

probably close to my favourite this year so far

verdant
Staff Reviewer
June 13th 2017


2424 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thanks for feature oh gracious mods

EphemeralEternity
June 13th 2017


3399 Comments


interesting not my usual cuppa tea but i think ill wet my beak with it
loverly little review as well

Digging: Malibu - One Life



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