Big Thief Credit: courtesy the artist

Big Thief’s gentle, gorgeous folk rock belies its gloomiest themes. As Adrianne Lenker, the guitarist and vocalist of the Brooklyn indie band, told Uproxx in June, the combination of mellifluous music and unnerving, painful themes on the group’s recent sophomore album, Capacity (Saddle Creek), comes less by intention than by simply letting the pieces of a song fall where they may: “I’m not really filtering what I’m writing about or attempting to write about just the sweet stuff. To me it’s just about shaking myself into a place of getting awake.” Lenker has a deft, gentle touch—her singing, in particular, is soft and hearthlike. She retains a delicate intimacy even when Big Thief performs in spaces so large they’re almost boundless, as was the case when the group appeared at Millennium Park this past summer. Big Thief’s tone and presence feel like an extension of Lenker’s point of view; it makes sense that her band adhere to their light-on-their feet gracefulness even as she sings about a violent assault (“Watering”). Capacity succeeds not because it makes this sort of darkness go down easier, but because Lenker and company traverse complex themes by giving them texture and a sense of humanity that allow each song to breathe. There’s a warmth and liveliness to Lenker’s lyrical blur of bygone memories on the piano-led “Mary,” which has just enough detail to give its characters dimension and hints that there’s so much more left unsaid—and so much more that couldn’t be translated even in song.   v