Adrianne Lenker : Bright Future

Adrianne Lenker Bright Future review

If you’ve ever had the chance to see Adrianne Lenker perform, whether as a solo artist or with her main band Big Thief, you know what it is to hear her talk about her art and music. While many singers use space between songs to promote merch, give props to opening bands, or work on their tight two minutes, Lenker’s interstitials land someone between a sermon and a reiki healing session. Often talking in circles, she doesn’t always make it easy to discern what she’s getting at, but it has an undeniable effect on the room, holding rapt attention even as the thread becomes increasingly difficult to grasp. In many ways, her work as a solo artist works in much the same way. Lenker has always been an opaque songwriter, favoring allusions, winding narratives, and discrete meaning over anything concrete, and her latest, Bright Future, is no different. It can, at times, feel impenetrable, even a bit affected, but more often than not, it’s easier to simply give in to Lenker, to join her flock and let yourself be enchanted. 

If one thing is obvious, it’s that vibes are essential to Lenker, which is why you will almost never find her working in total isolation, even on records released under her own name. To her credit, Lenker has always been one to shed light on collaborators, whether in Big Thief or her solo work, and Bright Future is chock full of the kind of contributions that deserve recognition. Her decision to include yet another version of the previously unreleased, fan-favorite “Vampire Empire” is evidence of the effect her backing band had on her during these sessions. While the single version Big Thief released last year was a twisting corkscrew of a song, this version—which features Twain’s Mat Davidson, Swedish multi-instrumentalist Josefin Runsteen, and songwriter Nick Hakim—turns it into the work of some backyard jug band hammering out an improvisational ditty. This kind of down home charm is all over Bright Future, a record not of blistering solos and weighty crescendos but of unhurried charm, whether it’s in the crystal clear pathos of opener “Real House,” the lilting harmonies of “No Machine”, or the wobbly, woven guitars on the breathtaking “Free Treasure.” This may not be Lenker’s primary team, but there’s nothing clumsy about this group of collaborators and when things fully coalesce, it’s up there with some of the best music she’s ever released. 

Lyrically, Lenker is walking a familiar tightrope here as on her most recent work with Big Thief. She is a vocalist who will inherently add a heft to any set of lyrics, but there are times when her instincts for playfulness can land a little flat. A song like “Evol” takes the notion inherent in its name—dichotomy of love, etc.—and stretches it as thin as possible in a song that is otherwise one of the more beautiful piano ballads of recent memory. Ditto for something like “Donut Seem,” whose attempts as whimsical sentimentality fall a little short. But again, this is kind of par for the course for a songwriter like Lenker, who will be nothing if not interesting even in the quietest, most mundane moments. When you arrive at a song like “Free Treasure,” in which she flexes her ability to blend cosmic poetry with the bucolic, fluid musicianship of collaborators clearly locking into something special, it is a reminder of just how rare an artist Lenker truly is and it easy it can be to fall under her spell. 

Label: 4AD

Year: 2024

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Adrianne Lenker Bright Future review

Adrianne Lenker : Bright Future

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