Posts Tagged ‘Big Thief’

4AD - Final Four 'Bills & Aches & Blues' Tracks Out Now

In 1980, a new British independent record label was christened Axis, but discovered after its first batch of releases that another Axis already existed, so a new name was necessary to avoid legal problems. New name: 4AD.

Now, 41 years after its inception, 4AD came up with the idea to celebrate the label’s glorious past with current artists covering a song of their choice from 4AD’s impressive catalogue of releases.

In 2020, 4AD Records turned 40 years of age. Never one to be on time for a party, the label is commemorating that landmark this year with the release of “Bills and Aches and Blues”. The compilation features 18 of its current artists covering a song of their choosing from 4AD’s past: a creative experiment rooted in the spirit of collaboration and a snapshot of 4AD, 41 years after its inception.

Bills and Aches and Blues’ includes 18 recordings contain fascinating connections between artist and track. The earliest song chosen (by U.S. Girls) is The Birthday Party’s Junkyard, from 1981; the most recent are the two Grimes covers (‘Genesis’ and ‘Oblivion’, respectively by Spencer. and Dry Cleaning) from 2012. Suitably, for the one band that bridges 4AD past and present, The Breeders are all over Bills And Aches And Blues. They’re covered three times – ‘Cannonball’ by Tune-Yards, ‘Mountain Battles’ by Bradford Cox of Deerhunter and ‘Off You’ by Big Thief, whilst The Breeders cover ‘The Dirt Eaters’ by their ‘90s contemporaries His Name Is Alive.

Bills & Aches & Blues features 18 of the label’s current artists covering a song of their choosing from 4AD’s past: a creative experiment rooted in the spirit of collaboration and a snapshot of 4AD . 

From 4AD’s 40th anniversary compilation Bills & Aches & Blues, SOHN does a double cover, taking on This Mortal Coil’s iconic, Liz Fraser-powered version of Tim Buckley’s “Song to the Siren” and doing so in a very reverential manner.

Landmark songs such as ‘Cannonball’, ‘Song To The Siren’ and Pixies’ ‘Where is My Mind?’, will feel comfortable to casual fans, however by contrast, much joy can be found in the album’s surprise choices, such as Air Miami’s ‘Seabird’ and the Lush B-side ‘Sunbathing’, covered respectively by new signings Maria Somerville and Jenny Hval.

Bills and Aches and Blues is named, arguably (as Elizabeth Fraser never published the lyrics) after the opening line of Cocteau Twins ‘Cherry-Coloured Funk’. Perhaps too unique and uncoverable in their own right, their legendary take on Tim Buckley’s ‘Song To The Siren’, under the name This Mortal Coil (along with Buckley’s pre-Starsailor acoustic version) informs SOHN’s cover.

Some tracks unearth hitherto hidden shared DNA, such as Future Islands’ and Colourbox’s ‘The Moon Is Blue’; other tracks are more akin to reinvention. Aldous Harding distils the melodic essence of Deerhunter’s ‘Revival’ and recasts it in her own uncanny image. U.S. Girls’ future-disco ‘Junkyard’ and Bing and Ruth’s neo-classical instrumental ‘Gigantic’ are even more radical interpretations. Leading off the album, Tkay Maidza brings both her Art Rap and R&B game, but also an unexpected ‘80s synth pop template, to Pixies’ ‘Where Is My Mind?’, a perfect title for these chaotic times.

TRACKLISTING:
Side 1:
01 Tkay Maidza Where Is My Mind? (Pixies)
02 U.S. Girls Junkyard (The Birthday Party)
03 Aldous Harding Revival (Deerhunter)
04 The Breeders Dirt Eaters (His Name Is Alive)
05 Maria Somerville Seabird (Air Miami)
Side 2:
06 Tune-Yards Cannonball (The Breeders)
07 Spencer. Genesis (Grimes)
08 Helado Negro Futurism (Deerhunter)
09 Efterklang Postal (Piano Magic)
10 Bing and Ruth Gigantic (Pixies)
Side 3:
11 Future Islands The Moon Is Blue (Colourbox)
12 Jenny Hval Sunbathing (Lush)
13 Dry Cleaning Oblivion (Grimes)
14 Bradford Cox Mountain Battles (Breeders)
Side 4:
15 SOHN Song To The Siren (Tim Buckley)
16 Becky and The Birds The Wolves Act I and II (Bon Iver)
17 Ex:Re Misery Is a Butterfly (Blonde Redhead)
18 Big Thief Off You (The Breeders)

Beggars Group Digital Ltd.

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Buck Meek released a video for “Halo Light” this week. The video was filmed during the recording sessions for “Two Saviors” in the New Orleans Victorian house called Wonderland where the album was laid to tape. It’s the same take of the song as appears on the record and features Adam Brisbin (guitar), Austin Vaughn (drums), and Mat Davidson (guitar/pedal steel/bass). The video was shot and directed by Riley Engemoen and edited by Alex Winker (fellow Austinites!).

Some words from Buck about the song: “I wrote Halo Light in two seasons – first as a healing process to accept loss as the seed of new growth – then, by a long string of coincidences, I ended up at Joni Mitchell’s home on New Year’s Eve, at a party filled with her old friends, all standing around the piano singing,” says Buck. “She held court in the centre of the room in an easy chair, like an ascended master, speaking with people one at a time with absolute presence. I remember her eyes being purple. I spoke with her briefly at the end of the party, and was struck so deeply by how the ephemerality of the human body and soul can manifest a collection of work for others to reflect upon and live through for generations to come, expanding outward. I wrote the chorus and finished the song that night when I returned home.”

“While the Big Thief guitarist’s solo work makes more room for American country music than his main band, it offers much of the same warmth and whispery intimacy.” – Pitchfork

“A gentle, charming country-folk treasure from a songwriter and guitarist of real pedigree.” – Guitar Magazine

Guitar performed by Buck Meek and Adam Brisbin Drums performed by Austin Vaughn Pedal Steel and Bass performed by Mat Davidson Produced and Engineered by Andrew Sarlo

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Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief has released a new video for her song “forwards beckon rebound” from her 2020 solo album “Songs”. The video features Lenker’s silhouette shot floating around the screen accompanied by her elucidative dancing at dusk in the desert. Filmed at Wild Heart Ranch in Joshua Tree, the “forwards beckon rebound” video was self-directed by Lenker but brought to life by cinematographer Adam Gundersheimer and producer V Haddad.

Last fall, Lenker released two solo albums titled “Songs” and “Instrumentals”, which featured her strong song writing abilities and indie-folk sound seeping through each track.

Both albums were written and recorded in April 2020 while under quarantine. After Big Thief’s European tour ended early due to COVID-19, Lenker retreated to a one-room cabin in the mountains of western Massachusetts and set up a studio there with the aid of engineer Philip Weinrobe.

“I grew really connected to the space itself,” said Lenker in a previous press release. “The one-room cabin felt like the inside of an acoustic guitar—it was such a joy to hear the notes reverberate in the space.”

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Another delicate and devastating piece of music from the pen of Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker. Her deeply affecting, evocative lyrics are potent as ever on the Brooklyn band’s third album, and the music has that same free and unencumbered spirit as their best work in the past.

Adrianne Lenker is here for the journey. On rare breaks in her touring schedule, she travels. It’s a willing itinérance that confirms the singer-guitarist’s rapport with the unknown. “I’ve become very translucent,” she says. “I allow things to pass through me, rather than feeling them hit me, like a defense mechanism.”

Lenker and her band Big Thief has built their reputation on a transcendent live show, where the boundaries between performer and audience evaporate in the wake of Lenker’s vulnerability, words sprouting from her harrowing and beautiful depths. The folk-steeped indie-rock quartet has toured relentlessly since their 2016 debut Masterpiece and its 2017 follow-up Capacity became hits for Saddle Creek, playing hundreds of shows across North America, Europe, and Australia.

“I’m living out of my truck,” Lenker explains. Speaking from that vehicle, parked outside a café in Los Angeles, Lenker explains that life without a permanent home is freeing, but also has its drawbacks. “I’m driving this truck, and it’s a gas guzzler,” she says. “If I could afford it, I’d get an electric car, and I’ve been thinking about converting this one.”

The band’s third album, U.F.O.F., marks their debut for indie stalwart 4AD. Recorded with long time producer Andrew Sarlo at Bear Creek Studios near Seattle, the record showcases the locked-in nature of the band whose communal instinct has been honed by the intimacy of its live show, and the tacit bonds formed from an aggressive touring schedule. Capturing this spirit was essential in the recording process, and the band largely played live in a cozy, rustic room.  Big Thief, which includes guitarist Buck Meek, bassist Max Oleartchik, and drummer James Krivchenia. The group will live here together for a month, and eat, sleep, and rehearse for their upcoming tour. But today, the mountaintop hideaway is Lenker’s alone—one in a long line of interim homes for the songwriter, who ditched her Brooklyn apartment three-and-a-half years ago in exchange for a life on the road. “We basically set out on tour and kind of never went back,” she says. “When I’m not touring, I’m just visiting with people, or renting, staying in an AirBnB or a motel. I like it, but the grass is always greener in a way. I think I’m craving a space where I can be still. But I imagine if I had the stillness, I’d be longing for the road.”

“We wanted it to be one big moment of energy with lots of passions,” recalls Krivchenia. Many of the tracks on U.F.O.F. were recorded live—some in just one or two takes—in the studio’s cabin-like main room. “Dom had this focus on the microphones and capturing the sounds of our instruments, so we were able to dance a lot more,” recalls Lenker.

Lenker’s complicated relationship with her life in perpetual motion is one of the many inspiration points behind Big Thief’s latest record, U.F.O.F. Anchored by Lenker’s vocals, U.F.O.F. (the last F stands for “friend”) sounds as expansive as its title implies—a shimmering collection of songs about “the blood and the guts of the human experience and the outward wondering about the mystery of it all,” says Lenker. It’s the most ambitious music Big Thief have ever made. Compared to the band’s last two records, U.F.O.F.’s arrangements are fuller, brighter, and harsher, delivered with the kind of ease that can only come from years of living, working, and creating side-by-side.

“There’s always some element of that alchemy of us playing together in real time, rather than stacking everything,” Lenker says. “It’s important. When a band is actually playing together you can feel it in the recordings.” Though U.F.O.F.is sharp in its instrumentation—drums, bass, and guitars passing through one another with a patterned fluidity—it also exudes spontaneity. Ambient sounds and textures punctuate the songs, and Lenker’s vocals growl and skitter.

Led by Lenker’s stunning, vulnerable lyrics, Big Thief’s songs have the keen ability to command attention. Few do that as well as U.F.O.F.’s opening track, “Contact.” The song begins with Lenker’s trance-like voice and Meek’s droning atmospherics. “It started as this exercise about the movie “Contact,” says Lenker. “I was looking at this heroine [played by Jodie Foster] who was so brave and so passionate, but didn’t receive much recognition, and had to fight through life. She had this deep longing for contact with the unknown—she was so committed to it. I thought it was so inspiring. That’s what I want to be like. Sometimes I feel like I get there, but then sometimes I’m so far from that—I’m caught by the traps of my ego, or all these things that make me feel smaller. That whole beginning section [of the song] is this brooding, numb state—a state I’ve been fighting my whole life. When you’re depressed, you can go to this place where you could be run over and not even feel it. There’s this disassociation from the body. But at the same time, you can see the sun, you can see the wind, you can see all the life around you. You can recognize that there is life being breathed through everything, but somehow you just can’t feel yourself connected to it.”

Around the three-minute mark, “Contact” is jolted from its slow, languid rumination on depression by a jarring onslaught of noise, accompanied by Lenker’s big, blood-curdling scream. “The idea was this person who could sort of see the sunlight through the water, and suddenly they feel this hand on their arm and they get pulled up. Their lungs fill with oxygen and they can feel the joy, they can feel the loss, they can feel the beauty, they can feel the nastiness—they can feel everything suddenly because they’re alive. That scream is suddenly feeling the deepest and oldest wounds. It’s the scream of birth—of being knocked back into life.”

There’s an unexpected bite when she sings the phrase “screaming sound” on the fourth track, “From” (a song that also appeared on Lenker’s 2018 solo album abysskiss). The heart-rending enunciation poured out unexpectedly, and was a point of discomfort at first. “I’ve been practicing trusting the band, even to the point where I don’t always choose my vocal takes,” she says. “Even if I don’t like something, I let go of it if the collective thinks that it’s good. I’ve realized that I’m not a good judge of my own singing.”

Whether you’re losing your mind in the dizzying ‘From’, stomping your feet to the down-home Americana of ‘Cattails’, or bawling your eyes out to the title track – you’re not gonna get through this record without feeling some feelings.

Though her life isn’t tethered to possessions, there are aspects of keeping a home that she misses. “I imagine that if I lived in one place I would have a compost toilet, and would be gardening and cooking my meals, and biking around a lot,” she says. She’s also not remiss about the volume of disposable wares commensurate with life as a working musician. “It’s a pretty wasteful industry that we’re a part of, even making records,” she says. “All the paper products and fliers and water bottles and driving. Not to mention when you play festivals, there are all these products that are offered to you.”

This macro view of the music industry can feel staggering, so for now Lenker is focused on more easily attainable and conscious decisions when it comes to avoiding waste. “When I bring my little ceramic mug made by my friend into the coffee shop, and ask them to please put the coffee in there, I feel more myself,” she says. “It’s little things, like turning off the water when I’m brushing my teeth.” Though it can be easy to abandon these principles when rambling from green room to green room, she feels more grounded when honouring them. “I feel part of the earth in some small way,” she adds. “You can ignore these tiny thoughts, or you know, you can turn off the lights when you leave the room. The small things are really important.”

This spring, Lenker begins playing in support of U.F.O.F., marking the start of fifty tour dates at mid-sized clubs and European festivals stretching into November. She’ll have only July and September off to recharge, and admits that this amount of travel and outpouring of physical and emotional expression can be depleting—but to her, it’s mostly a blessing and an opportunity to connect.

“The only way we can do this is to try to knock walls down with our music,” she says. It’s in this open posture, on the road and in performances, that she’s found her greatest sense of self. “That’s Big Thief in a nutshell,” she says. “We’re digging through all these layers that separate us.”

Listen deeply and allow yourself to be taken by its subtle charms.

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When Big Thief guitarist Buck Meek asked the band’s go-to producer Andrew Sarlo to oversee his second solo album Sarlo agreed, but there were some non-negotiable conditions. Everything would be recorded live using just eight dynamic mics, there could be no overdubs and headphones were banned.

It’s a familiar rootsy, organic approach to that which enabled Big Thief to release four beguiling indie-folk albums in their first four years, and it works a charm on Two Saviors, recorded on a humble Tascam 38 eight-track at the humid height of a steamy New Orleans summer. Set up in a Victorian house one block from the Mississippi, Meek taught his band these gentle, unpolished country arrangements on the fly, recording everything inside a week. The songs had been written while Meek was on downtime following Big Thief’s pair of 2019 releases, Two HandsandU.F.O.F., following the end of his marriage to the band’s lead singer Adrianne Lenker a year earlier. The mood is pastoral and reflective, Meek looking back with fond perspective on a past chapter of his life.

Buck Meek’s new album, “Two Saviors”, one of the first records released this year, and I wouldn’t bet against it being one of the best. Recorded by Buck, alongside producer and engineer Andrew Sarlo, who also worked with Buck on a number of Big Thief records, “Two Saviors” marks a change of tone for Buck’s solo material. While his self-titled debut was a character driven snapshot of the American Dream, here Buck seems to tap into something more personal, with these almost cathartic confessions spilling out of him.

Ahead of the record’s release, Buck this week shared the latest track from the album, “Candle”, co-written with Big Thief bandmate Adrianne Lenker. Lyrically, the track is a somewhat troubling affair, a song that seems to always be attempting to run, yet keeps getting drawn back; the sweetness of, “the same love I always knew” contrasted with the sighing inevitability of, “I guess you’re still the first place I go”. The lyrical juxtaposition is set against a musical backing that seems to murmur along with the words, the slide-guitar that seems to exist like an exhale of sadness atop the warmth of the Rhodes-piano, as Buck’s vocal is at times joined by bandmate Mat Davidson, before he leaves again to let Buck travel on alone. This really feels like a master-craftsman at work, a songwriter who knows exactly how to ring every drop of magic out of a track: this is something truly special.

Guitar performed by Buck Meek and Adam Brisbin Drums performed by Austin Vaughn Pedal Steel and Bass performed by Mat Davidson Produced and Engineered by Andrew Sarlo

Two Saviors is out today via Keeled Scales.

To spread some cheer before the end of a very difficult year, we are thrilled to reveal who’s joining PIXIES, King Krule, Big Thief, Bright Eyes, Little Simz and Aldous Harding at End of the Road 2021. Feast your eyes on over 100 artists on the bill, some familiar from 2020, some not so much…

The peerless Perfume Genius returns, this time to headline on Thursday night. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever also make a return. The Aussie five-piece are set to rip up the fields of Dorset again with ridiculously catchy guitar pop.

Creative force Les Amazones d’Afrique will join us from Mali plus the groundbreaking Les Filles de Illighadad whose lead guitarist Fatou Seidi Ghali is one of the only Tuareg female guitarists in Niger. All female seven piece Star Feminine Band hail from Benin and play a lucky dip of cross-African styles.

“Pareidolia,” the second single from Buck Meek‘s new album was just released. “Pareidolia” is the first word that appears on Two SaviorsIt’s a word about recognizing shapes where none were intended to exist – like searching for images in the clouds. It serves as an apt guide through these new songs of Buck’s, which are themselves uncommon and beautiful, and which invite a deep, cloud-gaze state of attention.

“We have all painted forms onto the clouds; a phoenix, a fire truck, snakes, Elvis, and so on,” says Buck. “We saw these visions as children, we encourage children to search for them, and we can’t help but continue to project meaning and symbolism onto the sky, to see mountains in moving water, faces in knots in wood, hidden messages in music, and god in toast. Pareidolia is a phenomenon which threads mundane experiences such as staring at the ceiling in the morning with the seeds of mythology and spirituality.”

Discussing the inspiration behind the track, Buck has been quick to talk up the joys of pareidolia, of how we shape clouds into pictures, form the shapes of nature into recognisable human form, and how we should embrace that, as Buck puts it, “the physical world is inherently limited, but our minds take every possible opportunity to transcend”. Although a solo album of sorts, Two Saviors was recorded with a small band of musicians in New Orleans, near the banks of the Mississippi River, with everything recorded live, attempting to capture the, “human energy of a first take”. On Pareidolia, this manifests as a slice of front-porch Americana, Buck’s distinctive vocal twang accompanied by meandering Rhodes-like keyboards, steady brushed drums and lithe strums of acoustic guitar, as he sings of visions in the sky and past events that flicker in his memories. Whether solo or as part of Big Thief, any record Buck Meek touches seems to sparkle with the presence of life being led, a chronicler of the world around him, he exists in the great tradition of folk-music and on the evidence so far, Two Saviors is shaping up as the latest brilliant chapter in his increasingly stunning encyclopaedia.

Buck Meek’s new album Two Saviors will be out January 15th, 2021. This clear blue vinyl variant is limited to 300 copies and only available here. We’re down to less than 75 copies, so snag yours now if you want one.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing  (home) Concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It’s the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space. introduced by Bob Boilen | November 18th, 2020 For her Tiny Desk (home) concert, Adrianne Lenker’s home is a camper trailer parked somewhere in Joshua Tree National Park. It’s the appropriate setting for the five songs she performs from her new album, tunes birthed in a wooden cabin in Massachusetts. The songs, the words, the voice of Adrianne Lenker has been at the top of my year-end musical loves for the past five years, more so than any other artist. It began with her work as the singer and songwriter on Big Thief’s electric debut album, “Masterpiece”, in 2016 and runs through this year’s two sister solo albums, one titled songs and the other instrumentals. Those albums contain nothing more than an acoustic guitar, voice, and the bug, birds, and creatures captured while recording. Her yearning voice, simultaneously frail and strong, draws me to those songs — songs about people, everyday life, everyday death, and ordinary places. All the while, she picks the tunes out of her guitar or paints the rhythms with a brush. These are songs worth spending time with, simple on first listen, but so much more profound once you live with them.

SET LIST: “zombie girl” “two reverse” “dragon eyes” “anything” “ingydar” MUSICIANS Adrianne Lenker: vocals, guitar

 

Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker releases “songs and instrumentals” on 4AD records . Songs and Instrumentals are two distinct collections, both written and recorded in April after Big Thief’s March tour was abruptly cut short due to coronavirus. After returning to the states from Europe, Lenker decamped to a one room cabin in the mountains of western Massachusetts. This recording is 100% analog-analog-analogue (AAA). No digital process was used in the production of this sound recording. The album’s stunning artwork are watercolour paintings done by Adrianne’s grandmother, Diane Lee.

The heart-aching voice behind big thief resumes her solo career with a record that celebrates both the poignancy of her lyricism and richness of her instrumental ear, resulting in a double album of inconsolable folk & serene acoustic arrangements. Adrianne Lenker appeals to the warm and fuzzy in ways that aren’t just low-hanging fruit. Her unusual vocal stylings (which have proved more influential than ever) are a godsend, and her poetic imagery—sometimes dainty and sometimes harsh—evokes the very best of comforting storytelling. On songs (also accompanied by an instrumentals album), Lenker brings the wonderfully detailed lines that also make Big Thief such a magical group (“Wind that howls like a hound / Wind that laughs like a clown … Candescent insects / Crosses and fishnecks”), while offering more stripped-down arrangements. 

‘Songs’ and ‘Instrumentals’ are two distinct collections, No digital process was used in the production of this sound recording. “her songs feel age-old, with a haunting serenity. the talent she possesses is something so special and rare that it feels wrong to reduce it to a simple review” 9/10 – loud & quiet.

Adrianne Lenker’s albums “songs” and “instrumentals” are out October 23rd, 2020 on 4AD Records.

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Big Thief’s Buck Meek releases his new solo album, “Two Saviors”, on Keeled Scales. While his last album, 2018’s Buck Meek, is a yarn of blue-collar fairy tales and character driven narratives, Two Saviors emerges as a cathartic, naked confession of heartbreak, resiliency, and enchantment. The first word on Two Saviors is “pareidolia.” It is a word about recognising shapes where none were intended to exist – like searching for images in the clouds. It’s an uncommon word, with a beautiful sound, and serves as an apt guide through these new songs of Buck’s, which are themselves uncommon and beautiful, and which invite a deep, cloud-gaze state of attention.

Two Saviors was recorded by producer and engineer Andrew Sarlo (who produced the first four Big Thief LPs), under his specific conditions: they make the album in New Orleans, during the hottest part of the year, spend no more than 7 days tracking, all live, on an 8-track tape machine with only dynamic microphones, and no headphones, not allowing the players to hear back any takes until the final day. The band, featuring Adam Brisbin (guitar), Mat Davidson (bass, pedal steel, fiddle), Austin Vaughn (drums), and Buck’s brother Dylan Meek (piano, organ), set up in a Victorian house one block from the Mississippi River and worked within these limitations, encouraging every recording to be imbued with the living, intuitive, and human energy of a first take.

I wrote a handful of songs during the covid-19 lockdown, and asked Andrew Sarlo to produce a recording of one. “Roll Back Your Clocks” felt most appropriate. Andrew prompted me to record the song at home with an acoustic guitar, and send that solo version to each of my four band members separately. Then we overdubbed instrumental parts and vocals on top of my solo recording, without hearing any of the other band member’s contributions – with no outside direction or insight, and sent their stems to Sarlo, who took the parts and alchemized them into a mix, revealing a serendipitous union. This era has presented every human on earth with the challenge to relinquish all expectations and bend with the fragility of life and society. “Halo Light” is a gently rumbling rumination on “the afterglow of loss, humanity’s ephemera, and the eternal nature of love.”

All we are left with is ourselves, and our own capacity to find peace within. This was an attempt to embrace the quarantine – to try to make something beautiful and honest and new without denying the limitations, but to move within them. It was a reminder to trust our telepathic instincts, and to value the connection with our loved ones as something that we always have access to, even in solitude,

Big Thief guitarist Buck Meek returns with Two Saviors, his second solo record. Backed by a band featuring pedal steel, fiddle, and his brother Dylan on piano and organ, Meek takes a look at heartbreak and expands on the loose, easy going twang of his 2018 self-titled debut. The songs on this album shine with this wisdom and are not ostentatious about it. This is true to Buck’s nature. He is recording life, consciously and unconsciously on a broad spectrum of planes. A new album from him is a gift, a chance to wonder about ways we could be seeing, recording.