The New Releases Shelf — Two Saviors


The members of Big Thief have apparently forged a secret pact a couple years ago, agreeing that not too much time would ever pass without at least one of them putting new music out into the universe. They notably delivered two terrific full-length studio albums within months of each other in 2019. Drummer James Krivchenia dropped a solo album in the summer of 2020, and front person and chief songwriter Adrianne Lenker brought forth the connected albums Songs and Instrumentals in the fall. As if worried that a whole quarter of the calendar might pass without new output to soothe the Big Thief faithful, the band’s guitarist Buck Meek ambles forward with his own solo effort. Surely a surprise spoken word suite from bassist Max Oleartchik is percolating with an April release date eyed.

It probably helps that the creative sensibility evident on Big Thief records, and shared of most of these ancillary discs, is particularly well-suited to a time of lockdown isolation. Meek’s Two Saviors is in alignment. Reportedly recorded over the span of a week in a well-worn New Orleans house, the album is spare and lovely. It is clearly meticulous yet sounds offhand. It’s akin to those albums Neil Young makes when he tells Crazy Horse to take a few weeks off and then plucks away at his guitar while warbling earnestly, sounding like he’s staging a concert for the ghosts in an attic where beams of sunlight slice through loose planks and reveal the dust drifting in the air.

Meek often seems to writing his songs by feel, as if the whole album is meant to be a fragile realization of the lyrics in the opening stanza of lead track “Pareidolia”: “With your head upon my lap/ On the buffalo grass/ The clouds are moving fast/ Simply tell me what you see.” The lyrics often feel like stream of consciousness reflections that Meek never bothered to circle back to for the purpose of reshaping them into more cogent storytelling, figuring the first thought is the purest. On “Pocketknife,” he sings, “Maybe August 29th/ If I make it through July/ Thank God for coffee and apple pie” and it somehow makes sense as something more than an inside reference, the murmured expressions of a mind at work as proper an assertion of lingering being as anything.

There is the sound of twangy yearning of “Candle,” a punchy groove to “Second Sight,” and low-key and a satisfying ramble to “Cannonball! Pt. 2.” Those are the tracks that find Meek at his most sonically spirited, which is a far cry from loud and boisterous. Meek is never going to push people onto the dance floor, but he’s fine company for those who cozy up against the bar as rest of the spent, happy crowd streams out, coaxing the staff out of one more whiskey pour as the mopping up begins. Two Saviors is a record for basking, appreciating what unfussy rhythm, melody, words, and music can do.

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