Adrianne Lenker is the most vivid image of a songwriter I can imagine; pure, raw, and masterful as they come, dwelling on details and turning a simple moment into an emotive tale. Many may only know Lenker as the lead singer of the critically acclaimed Brooklyn band, Big Thief, which Lenker uses as an outlet to expand her ideas and turn them into catchy, riff-heavy indie rock jams. When it comes to mainstream audiences, Big Thief churns out more digestible piece of music because of the group’s ability to turn aching heartbreak and the uncertainty of life into “foot-tappers.” However, Lenker’s solo work is crafted for the introspective and the restless thinkers, much like herself. Having played music since she was a child, Lenker’s honed into what has made her songwriting so impactful: the power and solace she finds in her own vulnerability. When asked how she decided to become a musician, Lenker responded with a quick “I don’t know if there was ever a moment of decision, it just kind of felt like the only thing I could see myself or feel myself doing.” Within the first seconds of her record, I know she’s absolutely right and I’m thankful Lenker went with her gut.
On her latest solo release abysskiss, released via Saddle Creek, Lenker is tender and thoughtful as each delicate song pours out of her like it’s as much of a want as it is a need. Song after song, her vocals, and carefully chosen words swallow you whole; Lenker takes you into a world of her own, particularly vulnerable moments in the songwriter’s life over the last few years. Some songs feel so personal, one almost feels like they’ve stumbled upon something they’re not supposed to see, like a lover’s journal. With such confidence in the writing though, it doesn’t feel intrusive suddenly as Lenker invites you into her most private moments with open arms and provides a chair to sit on while she gently narrates the aching hours of her adult life.
Most songs on abysskiss follow the same, simple formula: Lenker’s vocals partnered with the plucking guitar. But each song has a certain characteristic that separates it from the others. The chilling track “from” features the sounds of everyday house life, like dishes clinking and soft doors closing. “Out of your mind” has a surprising heavier, lo-fi quality to it, almost reminding me of something Mitski would’ve done on Bury Me At Makeout Creek, sonically speaking at least. No matter what sonic path she chooses during the course of the album’s ten tracks, the abysskiss follows two powerful themes: finding answers to a seemingly pointless existence and trying to love, in once again, a seemingly pointless existence. Though Lenker can’t respond to the questions of existential dread, she is a clear and unabashed voice and uses her music as an aid to deal with the unknown.
On February 4th, Adrianne Lenker will take to the stage of the beautiful Pico Union Project. Luke Temple, another masterful songwriter, and producer of abysskiss will be the supporting act to make for a night of carefully crafted folk ballads that will surely tap into emotions you may have forgotten about. I’m interested to see how such an intimate album like abysskiss will translate in front of a room full of strangers, but I’m anxious to find out.
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