We Gotta Wear Shades for Adrianne Lenker's Beautiful 'Bright Future'

BY Chris GeePublished Mar 20, 2024


Effortlessly and deeply in touch with her own sensitivities and the magic of her surroundings on her stunning new solo album, Adrianne Lenker is in a state of stunning clarity on Bright Future. Capturing the spontaneity and rawness of friends playing music in the woods, Lenker's latest solo album is like catching a glimpse of the sunrise or feeling a butterfly's kiss on your cheek.

This is in part due to its recording method — Bright Future was captured entirely with analog equipment, with not even a cellphone in sight. Lenker's insistence on inviting the essence of a place into her recordings and letting it suffuse the music makes Bright Future a record of total immersion and presence. The result feels like a continuation of her last set of solo material — 2020's Songs and Instrumentals — where the ebbs and flows of her environment were similarly part of shepherding the music into existence.

On Bright Future, Lenker eases into the intricacies of love, not so much crystallizing powerful feelings of heartbreak or the elation of falling into it, but rather allowing them to remain fluid. The cautiously bubbly "Fool" describes different versions of love, from a straightforward statement like "Kenna and Louie tied the knot," to something as simple and mystifying as "Jon got a clown on his arm." As Lenker's aged, she's become adept at infusing playfulness and lightness into her music, conveying a wide range of emotion. On "Evol," Lenker plays with her language ("Words back words backwards are lethal / Time spells emit / Who can see it"), while emphasizing the balance or duality of love, of happiness and of sadness in equal, co-existing parts.

Bright Future's sombre opening song, "Real House" — perhaps a more solemn cousin to Big Thief's "Mythological Beauty" — recounts small but intense moments of profound beauty and tragedy that Lenker experienced growing up. We hear Lenker sigh and a piano settling into the shifting floorboards of the room, wisps of its light notes hanging in the air as Lenker recites trauma and scarred internal healing from a place deep in her consciousness. It's a heart-wrenching way to start an album, but also provides the necessary context to Lenker's visceral songwriting.

Bright Future feels like a natural progression from Big Thief's Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You, which featured a more omnivorous approach with different sounds and styles blended together to mystifyingly cohesive results. There are familiar folk melodies, such as "Sadness as a Gift" or "Donut Seam" — the latter built on weeping, spindly violins and delicate, dexterous acoustic guitar — alongside sparse, brooding piano pieces like the aforementioned "Real House" or album closer "Ruined." Recent live Big Thief staple and controversial fan favourite "Vampire Empire" is included on Bright Future as a scrappy, rough-hewn take, re-inserting the original "I'm the fish and she's my gills" lyric, which was omitted from the band's studio version.

Lenker's writing is always in conversations with traditional songwriting modes, but her soft sense of self and fascination with the surreal makes her art compellingly and unmistakably individual. Brimming with personality, wit and wisdom, Lenker has been a master at inward and outward observation throughout her career; her unfiltered mind takes moments so seemingly small and equates them to unknown forces of the supernatural world. It's Lenker's restless energy that makes her one of this generations' most singular songwriters. 


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