Released only five months after the equally great U.F.O.F., Two Hands makes a good case for Big Thief being the most interesting working band in indie rock. Delicate but powerful, simple but effortlessly innovative, the music here handles roots conventions—strummed acoustic guitars, bone-dry production, the quiver of singer-songwriter Adrianne Lenker, some dust in the eyes and grit in the teeth—as instruments of cosmic significance.
The feelings remain abstract (they’re feelings), but the world they grow in—tactile, woody, violent—is anything but. And so we hear the howling of wolves, feel the chill of scissors on the back of our neck during a haircut, witness the bare-handed murder of a mother (the climactic “Shoulders”). These are concrete events tied so deftly to the revelations they inspire that everything on the album—the touchable and the not—comes to thrum with life. Or, as Lenker sings on the open-road anthem “Forgotten Eyes,” “No crying, but it is no less a tear/On the common cheek with which we smile,” giving both Tom Petty and Emily Dickinson runs for their money in one American stroke. Or, a track later and a little closer to the point, “The toy in my hand is real” (“The Toy”). Sure enough. But not every band can make holding it seem so mysterious or profound.