• By: Owen Maxwell

Big Thief’s subtle craft and sublime voice work does it every time

Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You (Brooklyn, NY)

Few artists can truly mystify our minds in the acoustic music world these days, but the subtle craft and sublime voice work in Big Thief does it every time. With their range as musicians not only showing through the dynamics but the actual power of every musical moment, this is Big Thief as a refined weapon of project, managing to make a 20-track album that has a lot to say on every single track. “Change” sets the record off on a strong yet subdued note, with Adrianne Lenker’s growl leading us to that next satisfying harmony or quiet layer of additional instrumentation to add a note of magic to the song. There’s a lot more groove pushing “Certainty” onwards, and it lets Lenker and co. take the whole song like a love song that everyone has known their whole lives, and in fact were waiting to sing together. After these low-key beginnings, the shimmering run of “Little Things” is mesmerizing at every end, and leaves you in its dream-like fire of guitars to just simmer out and get lost in the haze. There’s a haunting swing to “Simulation Swarm” that lets its slowly building energy overtake you and go from a calm to a battle call.

Angelique Francis  – Long River (Ottawa)

“Storms from My Eyes” comes out like a slow-burning fury, with Francis building on her own vocals and the vicious guitar playing for a song that gives more power than its tempo might otherwise afford. The kick of “Snow Rage” lets the riffs take lead, right up until Francis takes over and gives us growls and haunting lows. The more rustic approach to “Who Is Caroline?” plays in a more traditional space usually only touched on by the Pokey LaFarge’s of the world, but with her animalistic singing approach, the track is one of the most exciting of the whole record. The fat guitar tone and bass to “Out Your Mind” is also a fun direction on the record, with Francis playing a perfect complimentary tone with her voice hitting its own burning highs.

Keeley Forsyth – Limbs (Harrogate, U.K.)

Whether you’re familiar with her music or acting first, Keeley Forsyth has repeatedly proven herself a true artist across mediums. In a brooding, ambient vocal record, Forsyth calls you to another world, and lets you float along to find either hope or despair. The most ambivalent of these tracks is “Fires” where humming synths slowly give way to this growling feedback loop, all commanded forcefully by Forsyth’s deep vocals. The military-like crawl to “Limbs” is a lot more terrifying to behold, as the deep hit of the bass and sharper keys let the tale at hand feel like a prelude to death. Forsyth leans into the depths of her instrumentation for a colder and more menacing piece on “Land Animal,” as every chord feels like a mountainous rush of both melody and nature exploding. Despite the most natural arrangements in the organ and strings of “I Stand Alone,” Forsyth’s ability to find the highs and lows of her vocal range make the whole listen come off with an eerie sense of something we’ve never seen before, lost in a David Lynch-like swirl of sounds.

Rachel Bobbitt – Half Right (Single) (Toronto/Nova Scotia)

In a tribute to one of the many artists who’ve inspired her work the most, Rachel Bobbitt tackles work from Elliott Smith’s early band Heatmiser.  The scorching beauty Bobbitt gets out of the guitars here is truly amazing, with the watery qualities in their vocals coming out with a truly unplaceable power and charm. Bobbitt fits perfectly in this world, not only charging the whole group forward in her playing, but matching Smith’s own mythical energy alive in her voice. Bobbitt shows a true mastery of their sound and commanding emotion from within a song, to make this a cover that leaves you in pieces.

Beach House – Once Twice Melody (Final Section) (Baltimore, MD)

Given its unusual segmented release, we return for the last time to this wondrous new Beach House record. While it proves how each piece is ultimately a strong EP, it also ties together the whole release as a true modern epic that evolves the band’s sound in each of its quarters to make a truly sprawling listen. The sense of romantic resolution on “The Bells” feels like coming home, with the heavenly tone to every note of this song, and Victoria Legrand’s soothing tones offering a glimmer towards something even greater across the horizon. The lo-fi wonder of “Hurts to Love” opens to a more synthetic future as it goes on, with the rush of its electrifying synths truly taking you to this ethereal place by the time it hits its final moments. Though it plays a tad more meditative, “Many Nights” has this utterly calming feeling in its bones, with every loop of their chords lulling you more and more into a childlike slumber. Beach House go for true fantasy-like majesty to round out the record on “Modern Love Stories” as every few notes get a flourish akin to spells flying out amidst the already moody arrangements of this huge track.