New Music

Big Thief



words by tom johnson

photograph by shervin lainez


i can feel the numbness accompany my plight

and i know that someday soon i’ll see you

though now you’re out of sight


I can’t pin-point exactly when it happened, but some time early in my life I started building a world for myself, one crafted from imagination, a safety-place of self-invention added to over the years, meticulously, unconsciously, from life lessons and decisions made, new discoveries as building blocks used to grow and expand this place of other existence, dipped in and out of at will, drifting in to dreams or acts simply as a hideaway from a world that doesn’t exist only for you. Artifacts in the corner of a mind, brought to life like an orchestra.

Shaped by places and characters, definitive or formless, lifted from films and books and songs that have left a lasting impression on this real world, it’s a place of solitude, where the weather pertinently shapes everything and everyone, where time isn’t linear and ever moving, but something that acts, as perhaps it should, as a character itself, a provider of seasons and change and atmospheres from which we can see cracks form in the soil, leaves bloom and then cripple; a snapshot of a full life lived within another.

If this place has a soundtrack then perhaps, somehow, it was always ‘Mary‘, the striking new track from Big Thief. The band’s new album, Capacity, out this month, is, more than anything, about change: what it takes to push for it and the residue it leaves behind; the capacity we have to deal with it at all, forced or unforced. Within this record – one of the finest collections of songs we’ve heard in a long time – ‘Mary’ sits second from the end, a song so powerful and striking it lies not only as a deeper part of the puzzle it arrives within, but something extraordinarily distinct. Somewhat dreamlike, in the way that it manages to condenses a whole lifetime of sentiments in to just five sobering minutes, which unravel subtly through Adrianne Lenker’s most fixed gaze to-date, lyrics rolling off her tongue like a list of those aforementioned characters and characteristics, a staggering, gut-punching flow of poetic prose, so rich and detailed and full.

Delivered with an annunciation that feels as wildly gripping as such soft utterances can be, ‘Mary’ is a lightning-flash of an existence, one which houses its own people and places so vivid that to hear the track just once is to be a part of its construction; to feel the January rain and the crushing power of silence, to hear the June bugs setting out to fly, to see the stars carrying all of time, to really feel the crushing magnificence of what it is to be here, tasting and smelling and feeling for no other reason than to write our own famous story book, unraveling one word at a time, collapsing in on itself or dragged and stretched out for as long as you need to find whatever it is you might be searching for.


what did you tell me mary when you were there so sweet and very
full of field and stars you carried all of time
oh and heaven’s when you looked at me your eyes were like machinery your hands
were making artifacts in the corner of my mind
monastery monochrome boom balloon machine and oh
diamond rings and gutter bones marching up the mountain with our
aching planning high and smiling cheap drink dark and violent full of butterflies the violent
tenderness the sweet asylum the clay you find is fortified we felt unfocused fade the line
the sugar rush the constant hush the pushing of the water gush
the marching band when april ran may june bugs fly and push
your old gin jacob with the tired wirey brandy look
here we go round mary in your famous story book


‘Capacity’ is released on June 9th, via Saddle Creek


European Tour Dates

12 August | Way Out West Festival – Gothenburg, SE
14 August | Rivierenhof Theater – Antwerp, BE^
15 August | Batchkapp – Frankfurt, DE*
16 August | E-Werl – Erlangen, DE*
17 August | Melkweg – Amsterdam, NL*
18 August | Koko – London, UK*
19 August | Green Man Festival – Brecon Beacons, UK
20 August | Doune the Rabbit Hole – Stirling, UK
21 August | Academy – Liverpool, UK*
22 August | ABC – Glasgow, UK*

^ = w/ Conor Oberst & M Ward
* = w/ Conor Oberst


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