On a scale of zero to Big Thief, I would probably put Buck Meek’s solo output so far at around a 6.5. He is an integral part of one of the best bands I have discovered in the last five years, but unlike his bandmate Adrianne Lenker, especially on last year’s Songs and Instrumentals, he doesn’t hit the same heights when he ventures out on his own for me. There are a few reasons for this. One is that, again unlike Lenker, he leans towards a lighter and more airy sound in his solo output. When Lenker lets loose on her own she tends to favour the searing and the brutal, the red raw emotionality that only the truly special songwriters can pull off (on my arbitrary scale above, she’d probably score a 9). There is emotion in Meek’s work too, but, as songs such as ‘Second Sight’ and ‘Two Moons (morning)’ demonstrate on Two Saviours, that emotion is something closer to a chirpy joy. And I’m a miserable bastard, so that isn’t always my thing. But what’s really fascinating about comparing their individual output in this way is that you can see how their two tendencies meld together in Big Thief to create music that is almost always a perfect 10.
So maybe then, that is an unfair scale to place Mr Meek on. Obviously it’s a natural thing to do given his status in the band, but if I am immediately comparing Two Saviours to works that are so complete and exemplary then maybe he isn’t getting the same starting point as I would give to any other singer-songwriter. Because Two Saviours is actually pretty good. There are moments on it, in fact, that are beyond good and close to gorgeous. ‘Two Moons’ is a delicate, layered song that makes the absolute most of Meek’s voice to create something that feels almost like a lullaby. ‘Candle’ is another stunner – with a beautiful tone on the guitar, a consistently mesmerising drum beat, and some of the best storytelling on the whole piece.
Other such moments pop up here and there across the album, too. ‘Dream Daughter’ is a lovely, moving song which feels as close to the work of Big Thief as anything else here. And ‘Ham on White’ starts with an almost haunting squeal before bursting into one of the more successful rock moments on the record – probably the best song I’ve heard about wanting a sandwich really badly. These standouts alone make this a listen that is well worth your time.
But as unfair as it might be, the comparisons I made at the start of this review are unavoidable and I will have to return to them in the end. In comparison to his work with Big Thief and Adrianne’s latest LP, Two Saviours is somewhat forgettable. There are no parts that grip and move me in the way that songs like ‘zombie girl’ and ‘anything’ did towards the end of 2020. And while Lenker makes her voice work on any style of song, Meek is so much more suited to singing the intricate and quiet songs and his voice can become a tiny bit offputting at its chirpier moments. Two Saviours then, in the end, does not move Buck Meek up the scale.
Words by Fran Slater