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'songs' by Adrianne Lenker review

‘songs’ Review


Big Thief frontwoman Adrianne Lenker has returned with another solo release, a two-part LP titled ‘songs’, with a subsequent tape of two towering instrumentals. Fans of Lenker like myself have been far from deprived of material recently. Big Thief has established their presence in the indie-folk scene following their incredible debut record Masterpiece and 2017 effort Capacity. 2019 was a busy year for the band as they released 2(!) full length LPs, U.F.O.F and Two Hands. Following the critical and audience success of their 2 2019 albums, Big Thief was planning to tour prior to, you guessed it, COVID. Yes I know fans everywhere were deprived of seeing one of the most unique yet consistent bands in concert and that is a drag, but newfound free time allowed Lenker to isolate in a cabin with an acoustic guitar and flesh out this new solo material, which turned out to be one of the most beautiful albums released this year. 


Lenker was successful in her efforts to keep this album as bare bones as possible, mimicking the environment she cooped herself up in, “The one-room cabin felt like the inside of an acoustic guitar, it was such a joy to hear the notes reverberate in the space.” said Lenker when asked about her surroundings during recording. Sonically, the album's simplicity is its best friend, each song featuring Lenker’s chilling voice with minimal effects and an acoustic guitar, this minimalism helps emphasize her lyrics and contribute to the thematic ideas throughout the listen of loss, emptiness, and longing. Lenker’s heartbreak is palpable immediately as she cries out on the first track, “two reverse”, “Tell me lies. I wanna see your eyes. Is it a crime to say, I still need you? Crime, wanna feed you.”. Lenker continues to refer to this person in the second person, as if they are too locked in isolation with her as she pleads for them to stay by her side. On ‘anything’, she repeats “I don’t want to talk about anything… I wanna witness your eyes looking”. The first half of the album is largely a reminiscent version of Lenker expressing her desire for how things used to be. This is until the thematic climax of the album, “zombie girl”, when she begins to question and ponder on the nature of her emotion. She asks, “Oh emptiness, tell me about your nature, maybe I’ve been getting you wrong.”. When she finally begins to question her emptiness, the purpose of the record begins to shine through.


This record describes Lenker trying to answer the nature of her emptiness to no avail. In any attempt to discover this origin, she continues to revert back to longing for what was. Above all else, this is an album which highlights Lenker’s humanity, she doesn’t pretend to know the answers, she does what all people do, she copes. Lenker heals through ‘songs’, this was an album that was equally as important to her as it is for those who can feel as empty as she does during these trying times. “songs” is Lenker coping with her issues and inviting us to do the same with her, to be her “lap when I’m crying”. This is 39 minutes of critical exploration of herself only to realize there are things that she cannot understand, things like emptiness that she must “Cover with questions, cover with explanations, cover with music”.


- Michael Barnes


Favorite Songs: two reverse, ingydar, anything, heavy focus, half return, zombie girl



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