ALBUM REVIEW: Adrianne Lenker – Songs/Instrumentals | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Released: 23.10.20







Image by Genesis Báez

When Big Thief’s spring tour fell into the dark bottomless pit of the coronavirus, Adrianne Lenker could have been forgiven for taking the opportunity for a well earned rest, having made two records in 2019 and been on tour since. Rest she did not, she made two more albums! However, it is clear on first listen though that it was not a sturdy work ethic or an unforgiving, impossibly demanding record label that kept her going but a simple, pure love for music. Why would she need a break from something that she loves so much (and is so good at)?

As with her previous solo record she does not miss the dynamic thrust of her Big Thief comrades. At no point do you feel her looking around helplessly for a cymbal crash or an overdriven chug to punctuate her point. Rather, she settles into the lack of company, and fixes her gaze on you. Her intimacy is such that if you reached out, you could pluck a string yourself. Sat cross legged on your bedroom floor, guitar cradled in her lap she gives you the gift of 11 of her finest songs to date.

Our immersion in her world is deepened by  her happily accidental use of “the method”. “It just so happened that there was a little cabin available for rent right next door to Zoe and Brian in the mountains in Western MA. So I grabbed my truck and drove out to the country. As I settled into the cabin over the course of a month, I grew really connected to the space itself. The one room cabin felt like the inside of an acoustic guitar.” 

She takes us with her, into the wooden hollow of her guitar and of course, a lonely wooden hollow it sounds as in a lonely wooden hollow it is.

songs is Lenker at peace. Allowing the songs to come to her and through her. Not reaching or snatching at a hook. Nothing is rushed or forced. Nothing is overdone. Just 11 perfectly crafted and beautifully delivered songs and amazingly nine of them were written right there, that quarantined month in the cabin! “I was on a whole new level of heartsick and the songs were flying through my ears.”

instrumentals is, as its title suggests, two instrumental pieces, but this is Adrianne Lenker so it was never going to be ‘just’ two instrumentals! It is subtly cinematic, like the soundtrack to a rural, middle-American coming of age story. Playing out on balmy late-spring days. Just enough breeze to trouble a lazy wind-chime and carry amorous bird song. Being called in, one by one for supper as sky blue finds indigo and warm orange sunset glow gives to chilled white starlight. The last two left. The first clumsy fumblings of adolescence. Like the fickle flicker of the fire, naive friendships ignite into something more and then collapse into nothing at all. We shuffle and sulk into the cabin, to Granny Lenker’s knee. She has a song or three.

A film that has yet to be made. But we can hope that, just this once, the horse might follow the cart. You never know with Adrianne Lenker.


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