Big Thief – Paul (Stream)
by Steven Spoerl
After a small avalanche of post, this will be the last in a series focused on catching the site up to the current release cycle in three major categories. Music videos are up to date, full streams are up to date, and now, individual songs will be as well. Throughout the past few days, we’ve been given great new tracks from Magic Potion, Tiergarten, Jo Passed, and Alex Calder. We’ve also been given another masterful tune from Big Thief, who are on a pre-release run that’s all but guaranteed their upcoming full-length, Masterpiece, will be a breakaway success.
Ever since “Real Love” landed the band in the 50 Best Songs of 2016’s First Quarter, they’ve been making all of the right moves. “Humans” saw them scale back the grandiose scale of both “Masterpiece” and “Real Love” to gripping effect and “Paul” continues to flirt with the divide between statement and understatement. “Paul”, maybe more than any of their songs to date, draws its life from its more subdued nature, playing up the nostalgic quality that helps define Masterpiece.
As always, the band’s grasp on their identity — and their dynamics — is exquisite, with each second of “Paul” registering as intensely thoughtful. Reveling in the song’s quiet nature allows the quartet the opportunity to make the brief silences of “Paul” into a chilling instrument of its own, driving up the song’s tension and wistfulness at roughly the same rate. The harmonies in the chorus provide the song with a beautiful flourish, underscoring the relationship at the crux of the central narrative like its a fondly-remembered dream.
Once again, Big Thief has gifted us a breathtaking glimpse into what’s shaping up to be one of 2016’s best records. Every second of the material the band’s released thus far has been meticulously composed, emotionally resonant, beautifully produced, and undeniably powerful. Subtle, nuanced, and surprisingly direct in its examination of fractured psyches, lovelorn tendencies, and some darker Southern Gothic sensibilities, “Paul” is as arresting as they come and all but cements Big Thief’s status as one of 2016’s most important emerging acts. More than a dozen consecutive listens into this review, it’s also the kind of song that’s proving nearly impossible to take off repeat.
Listen to “Paul” below and pre-order Masterpiece from Saddle Creek here.