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  • Nathan Weakley

Adrianne Lenker, Bright Future - Album Review

On March 22, 2024, Adrianne Lenker released her sixth solo studio album, Bright Future. Though she’s best known for her work with indie-folk outfit Big Thief, Lenker has also founded a remarkable solo career upon serene acoustic records that seep into your bloodstream slowly, and for me at least, never really make it out. If there’s one word I can say to explain why I love her music, it’s sincerity. Everything she writes just feels so honest. It’s never avoidant of pain or discomfort, and never bent on saying anything beyond the truth.

But, with Bright Future, she’s delivered an album that feels both rougher and more musically diverse than her previous work. It is, more or less, a country album, but it’s one that feels divorced from the movements of popular music if not from place and time entirely. Lenker’s vocal tones and naturalistic preoccupations align her with old country legends like Townes Van Zandt or Emmylou Harris. But she’s operating in a time when those artists are largely forgotten by young people, and so are the musical conventions and mythologies that governed them. Bright Future is shorn of any tendency that might permit it be categorized as anything but a raw, personal expression.

The recording’s style is simple and sparse. Technical perfection is not the ideal most ardently pursued– not every take is perfect, and not every mix is perfectly even, but in the end that only serves to make the album feel more human. Occasional fret rattles only document the play of living fingers; only deepen the warmth that radiates from every sound.

The record opens boldly with stand-out ballad “Real House”, a track that, like so much of Lenker’s work, smuggles a semi-apocalyptic breadth of emotion beneath sheets of gentleness and calm. The lyrics collage varied childhood memories through a daisy-chain of scattered rhymes and phrases above a loosely rhythmic piano. In a way, it can be seen as the template the album follows going forward; featherlight nostalgia and sweetness interspersed with confrontation and darkness, held together by that sincerity which never lets up.

Lighter moments include the campfire-country tracks “Candleflame” and “Already Lost” The latter is especially moving and sweet, painting love as something living in the workings of nature. The melody is really beautiful.

“Sadness as a Gift”, the album’s second single, is a bittersweet peak. Lyrics like “chance has shut her shining eyes and turned her face away” reflect on good fortune’s passing without regret or anger. “Evol” is another piano ballad that sees Lenker’s gossamer voice float weightless above an uneasy, ever-shifting piano. 

My favorite song of these twelve, though, is “No Machine”. I get a sick feeling sometimes trying to write about a song like this, because I know all too well that if any description could do it justice, then I wouldn’t love it as much as I do. But whatever. 

Altogether, Bright Future is a beautiful album. I really can’t say enough about it. But if anybody’s thinking about giving it a listen, this is a sign. It might make you sad, or it might make you feel better. It’s done both for me. I’m thankful.


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