Indie folk-rock mainstays Big Thief shared their first proper new songs in two years on Tuesday, “Little Things” and “Sparrow.”
The tracks follow a big 2019 for the band, which saw the release of their acclaimed third and fourth albums, U.F.O.F. and Two Hands, which both landed among Paste’s favorite records of that year. Produced by Big Thief drummer James Krivchenia, “Little Things” and “Sparrow” were recorded with Shawn Everett at Topanga, California’s Five Star Studios in October 2020 and Sam Evian at Flying Cloud Recordings in the Catskills in July/August 2020, respectively.
“Little Things” isn’t quite like anything we’ve heard from the band to date: Bright acoustic-electric strumming and eager bass noodling (plus Buck Meek’s grasping electric guitar riffs) shuffle atop a difficult rhythm to get a handle on, yet Adrianne Lenker’s distinctive vocals ride the lightning as only she can, as she sings to a lover about “the little things I like about you,” admitting, “Maybe I’m a little obsessed / Maybe you do use me.” In the song’s latter half, she yelps as if the instrumental’s livewire energy has literally electrocuted her, and the band jams onward as she murmurs indistinctly, the song stretching breathlessly towards the six-minute mark.
“It’s in this sort of evolving free time signature where the beat is always changing,” Krivchenia says of “Little Things” in a statement, “so [bassist] Max [Oleartchik] and I were just flowing with it and guessing where the downbeats were—which gives the groove a really cool, light feeling.”
“Sparrow” is the rustic, slow-paced comedown from all that excitement, with Lenker setting a familiar-feeling pastoral scene, her rhyme schemes folding back on themselves, and the resulting repetition (not to mention Oleartchik’s tinny tack piano) lending the song a hypnotic mysticism. The song is chorus-less—“Kept wanting to put in a chorus and the song kept spitting it out,” says Lenker—yet it spirals like a whirlpool around certain images and symbols: the titular bird and its brethren, the apple and all it represents, Adam, Eve and talking snakes. What we hear on the recording is the band’s first take.
“We all just scattered about the room without headphones, focused and in the music—you could feel that something special was happening,” recalls Krivchenia. “It was a funny instrumentation that had a really cool natural arrangement chemistry—Max on piano, Buck [Meek] providing this dark ambience, me on floor tom and snare, and Adrianne in the middle of it with the acoustic and singing.”
There’s no word yet on whether these songs belong to a larger body of work, but this band has only grown more prolific with time. Big Thief’s members have been keeping busy, both with solo work and collaborations with other artists, yet the band found the time to release a Two Hands outtake titled “Love in Mine” in 2020, a cover of The Breeders’ “Off You” for 4AD’s Bills & Aches & Blues compilation in March, and a new live album, Live at The Bunker Studio, in May.
They also recently announced a U.S. tour set for this September, which includes sets at Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival and New York City’s Governors Ball Music Festival, and concludes with a sold-out two-night stand at Philadelphia’s Union Transfer in early October. You can get tickets here.
Listen to “Little Things” and “Sparrow” below (or stream/buy them here), and revisit Big Thief’s 2016 Daytrotter session further down. Keep scrolling for the band’s tour dates.
Big Thief Tour Dates:
07 – Louisville, KY @ Headliners Music Hall *
08 – Indianapolis, IN @ HI-FI – SOLD OUT *
10 – Chicago, IL @ Pitchfork Music Festival
11 – St. Louis, MO @ The Pageant *
12 – Lawrence, KS @ Liberty Hall *
14 – Dallas, TX @ Granada Theater ^
15 – Austin, TX @ ACL Live at the Moody Theater ^
17 – Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall Downstairs ^
18 – New Orleans, LA @ Civic Theatre ^
20 – Nashville, TN @ Ryman Auditorium *
21 – Atlanta, GA @ The Eastern *
22 – Raleigh, NC @ North Caroline Museum of Art +
24 – Richmond, VA @ The National #
25 – Queens, NY @ The Governors Ball Music Festival
27 – Buffalo, NY @ Asbury Hall
28 – South Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground – SOLD OUT #
30 – Northampton, MA @ Pines Theatre – SOLD OUT %
01 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer – SOLD OUT *
02 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer – SOLD OUT *
09 – Barcelona, ES @ Primavera Sound
(* with Mind Maintenance)
(^ with Jimmy Stallings)
(# with Natural Information Society)
(+ with Molly Sarlé)
(% with Alex G)