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Review: Adrianne Lenker’s songs

On Oct. 23, 2020, Indianapolis-born singer-songwriter Adrianne Lenker released “songs.” Lenker is most known for her role in the band Big Thief, and her latest release provides the same emotional lyrics and high octave vocals that prove time and time again to be a relentless earworm. 

 The album, “songs,” was born from a breakup and in the wake of a cancelled tour due to COVID, so, the major themes of Lenker’s lyrics are related to isolation, loneliness and grieving the loss of a relationship. “Songs” was also conceived and created in a one-room cabin in the Mass. woods, further contributing to the overall sense of isolation found in Lenker’s lyrics. 

The album is extremely bare-bones. It does not lean on high levels of production or even multiple instruments for that matter. Lenker instead opts to place her voice and the tranquil, yet still interesting, guitar at the epicenter of songs.  

The opening song of Lenker’s new album, “two reverse,” introduces the theme and overall feel of the album in an extremely digestible way. She sings of missing a lover — a difficult emotion for many — but then mixes those difficult lyrics in with descriptions of nature.  

The sixth and seventh tracks are where songs begin to take a, not depressing, but rather exposed and tender tone. The sixth track, “half return,” keeps the upbeat guitar found in the earlier tracks while Lenker sings about death. She speaks in ways that, on the surface level, may seem benign, but in the broader context of the song and album, show her pain and the loss she feels. 

The seventh track,  “come,” slows down and depicts Lenker yearning for her now lost lover. “Come” is where Lenker’s story-telling abilities, through not just lyrics but all sounds, are put on a pedestal. She incorporates her comparison of lost love to mortality into a vivid story that one cannot help but empathize with her. 

 “Zombie Girl,” the album’s eighth track, is the track that lets the listener closest to Lenker’s relationship. She sings of imagining her lover beside her and then begins a conversation with silence, recognizing  its merit, welcoming it and finally asking it to speak. 

The closing track, “my angel,” is by far the least vocal track on the album. The long interludes of guitar make Lenker’s vocal performance hit harder and leave a sense of anticipation throughout most of the song.  “My angel” ends mid-verse, and, just like that, “songs” is over. The abruptness of the end of this album is a perfect representation of love. Everything could be going great, and then it ends mid-verse. 

“Songs” is really a product of its circumstances. If not for Lenker’s breakup, cancelled tour and isolation in nature, this album would never have even crossed her mind. The theme of lost love is found everywhere throughout the album along with descriptions of nature.  “Songs” would not be anything without the scenic nature she was living in or without Lenker’s pain in regards to her relationship, so, the authenticity of this album is not one that can be disputed or even questioned for that matter.