Big Thief
Demos Vol. 1 - Topanga Canyon, CA - Feb 2018


3.7
great

Review

by Rowan5215 STAFF
April 18th, 2020 | 29 replies


Release Date: 04/17/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: wilderness, vast abyss, will we ever kiss?

Big Thief fans, if they're anything like me, spent a fair slice of time since Two Hands wondering what a halfway point between that album and U.F.O.F. would sound like. It's only natural: the first album was dreamy and hazy, existing in liminal spaces between happy/sad, optimistic/pessimistic, life/death. Its successor was raw and uncompromising, an album of bold and straightforward emotion, turning its concerns from trees and sky to highways and dirt. I never had any expectation that there would be a middle ground, nor that Big Thief would release music less than a year after two spectacular albums mere months apart, but Demos Vol. 1 fulfills an unspoken promise like this was a piece of the puzzle we were always meant to hear.

In more practical terms, it gives us a small window on Big Thief during the early stages of demoing for their 2019 releases, seemingly before the material had diverged into two distinct styles. "Blue and Red Horses" combines the taut, earthy grooves of Two Hands with a winding vocal melody and elliptical lyric - sourced from Adrienne Lenker's abysskiss, as were two cuts from U.F.O.F. - which could fit into that album's surreal soundscape without issue. The title track of Lenker's album also appears, here transformed into a full-band ballad with a shimmering guitar line that recalls Midwest emo above anything else. Meanwhile, "Mermaid" and "Over" recall the stripped-back simplicity of "Forgotten Eyes" and "Open Desert" respectively, lacking the passion of those tracks' incredible vocal takes but showing potential nonetheless.

Appropriately sequenced as a closer and standing toe-to-toe with anything Big Thief released in 2019 is "Live Young". Like the perennially underrated "Wolf", the song is built primarily around Lenker's indelible voice and the hypnotic guitar work of Buck Meek, though electronic hums and glitches towards the end cause an unnerving break in the song's calm. Lenker sings "morning comes to divide the dreamer from the dream" over and over in a heartbreaking falsetto, almost a coda to U.F.O.F.'s major thematic concern of dreams and half-dispersed memories. If the title of the EP is to be believed, more demos are coming, but for now Vol. 1 is a gorgeous, satisfying release which enriches both its accompanying albums by providing a glimpse of their roots.



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user ratings (4)
3.1
good


Comments:Add a Comment 
Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 18th 2020


44026 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

wrote this real quick cos it rules. all profit's to the band's crew too:



https://bigthief.bandcamp.com/album/demos-vol-1-topanga-canyon-ca-feb-2018

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
April 18th 2020


28594 Comments


"Like the perennially underrated "Wolf"

Yeet! The sounds coz, will probably check after Shikari

Digging: ZOMBIE-CHANG - TAKE ME AWAY FROM TOKYO

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 18th 2020


44026 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

that will quite the combo of styles, put them in one playlist and put it on shuffle imo (no not really don't do this)

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
April 18th 2020


28594 Comments


...you've already done this, haven't you?

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 18th 2020


44026 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

*suspiciously looks up from crossfading Live Young with Elegy for Extinction in audacity* no nope not at all

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
April 18th 2020


3395 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Faaaaaaantastic review. Agreed that Live Young is the standout here. Wolf is underrated? That makes me mad. I also really like this version of Blue and Red Horses, but that was one of my favourites of Abysskiss, so it'll take a little to fully get used to it.

SowingSeason
Moderator
April 18th 2020


35700 Comments


didn't know this was a thing

will probably pass on it considering I found both of their last two hailed records to be merely ok

Digging: Movements - No Good Left To Give

brainmelter
April 18th 2020


7128 Comments


Huh Topanga Canyon, CA? I literally live less than a ten minute walk from this street

Digging: Daumier - untitled

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
April 18th 2020


20303 Comments


"will probably pass on it considering I found both of their last two hailed records to be merely ok"
yeah they're fine

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
April 19th 2020


3395 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Damn fine.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
April 19th 2020


28594 Comments


Off topic, but does this band's name have an origin story? Have suddenly realised how great it is

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 20th 2020


44026 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

@Johnny the pitchfork profile says that Meek came up with the band name but not what it means (if it means anything):



"Lenker and Meek started playing and traveling the country as a duo in 2013. “We had each other’s backs,” Meek recalls over the phone. “The seed of care was planted then.” The name Big Thief was one that Meek had been holding onto, and they both liked the questions it brought up."

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
April 20th 2020


3395 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Band think and exist in/on another plane of existence, does anything mean anything?

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 20th 2020


44026 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

I'm making a list of things I definitely know the band name *doesn't* mean. it's not the phone on the table...

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
April 20th 2020


28594 Comments


What are they stealing and what are they not stealing hmm intrigued

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
April 20th 2020


3395 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

...very nice.

NorthernSkylark
April 22nd 2020


10355 Comments


a shame i can't listen to it

Digging: Portishead - Roseland NYC Live

Lord(e)Po)))ts
April 24th 2020


58917 Comments


Little shit band name

Lord(e)Po)))ts
April 24th 2020


58917 Comments


" they both liked the questions it brought up.""

All zero questions

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
April 24th 2020


10300 Comments


Excited to check this

Digging: sprain - As Lost Through Collision



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