It’s a mesmerizing thing, a hypnotic instrument, a dream-drunk, beckoning call. Adrianne Lenker’s voice can be hushed and intimate – but it can also jump, suddenly and fiercely, from the songs she sings. Big Thief, the band Lenker fronts, has been drawing audiences into its soundscapes at an impressive pace over the past two years. Listeners have been captivated by the Brooklyn band’s remarkable textures, Lenker’s smart, observational storytelling, and the assured instrumental performances of all four members of the group. (Lenker is also an deft and imaginative guitar player.)
Anticipation is running high for Capacity, the band’s upcoming second album. Masterpiece, the Big Thief debut, was embraced by fans and critics alike. The All-Music Guide called the set a wall-to-wall artful expression, Pitchfork praised the songwriting and the band’s sense of balance, NPR lauded Lenker’s stunning voice and the group’s intense rhythms. “Mythological Beauty,” the first track released from Capacity (the album will be out on Saddle Creek on June 9) extends and deepens the musical and lyrical themes of Masterpiece. It’s a tale of a mother coping with a severely wounded child, and staggering – but remaining steady – under the burden of that immense responsibility.
This song isn’t entirely fiction. It’s based on an actual incident, an injury the songwriter suffered when she was very young. As Lenker recently explained in a lengthy Pitchfork feature, she had an unusual childhood: early days in a cult, followed by years of travel across the country, and a budding interest in self-expression encouraged by her musician father. With her close-cropped hair and her penetrating eyes, Lenker is a natural subject for music video, and director Vanessa Haddad makes the Big Thief frontwoman the focus of the mystical, beautifully shot clip for “Mythological Beauty.”
Lenker and her bandmate and longtime collaborator are adventurers, journeying together over a gorgeous, snow-covered mountain. She’s alert and wary; he’s shaky, straggling, doing his best to keep up with her. When he falls, exhausted, Lenker does what any heroine would – she slings his limp body over her shoulders and carries on. To save him requires magical intervention: a ritual that hovers somewhere between surgery and a religious rite, and which generates some seriously altered states. Gripping like an episode of a fantasy series and an emotionally provocative as a whispered confession, the “Mythological Beauty” clip underscores both the communicative power of Big Thief and the band’s unerring ability to provoke reverberations in the unconscious of its listeners.