The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Review | Adrianne Lenker puts her soul on display in ‘Bright Future’

With the release of her emotional, clever, and insightful sixth solo studio album, the Big Thief singer packed another memorable contribution into her already impressive discography.

Known for both her solo work and as the primary vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter of the indie folk band Big Thief, Adrianne Lenker has established herself as one of the greatest and most acclaimed songwriters of her generation.

In her newest album, “Bright Future,” released on March 22, Adrianne Lenker showcased a spectacular ability to both bare her soul and invite listeners to explore their own.

I have thoroughly enjoyed her work with Big Thief, especially the band’s 2022 album “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You,” but I had never dived into her solo work before “Bright Future.”

Nonetheless, knowing what she was capable of, the bar was set very high.

The album’s first song, “Real House,” opened with a stunning piano chord progression, complemented by various environmental sounds intertwined in the background:  , movements, and at one point, Lenker’s voice distanced from the microphone. The inclusion of these sounds made the track very human — a reminder of how skilled Lenker is at connecting with her listeners.

With its lyrics, the lead track reflected on the purity of childhood and the inevitable reminiscing that comes with growing up. As someone graduating college in less than two months and often indulges in nostalgia as an escape, Lenker’s words hit like a baseball bat to the stomach, especially the lines: “Do you remember running? / The purity of the air around / braiding willow branches into a crown /  that love is all I want,” had me staring at the ceiling for a good while.

Not even a minute into the second song, “Sadness As A Gift,” tears were finding their way down my cheeks. After a four count from Lenker, a gorgeous combo of violin, acoustic guitar, and piano teamed up to deliver a devastating blow to my tear ducts.

The remaining 10 tracks were song after song of immersive and crushing lyrical stories, in which Lenker provided both a window into her soul and a reflection on the listener. My other favorite cuts include “Free Treasure,” “Evol,” and “Donut Seam.”

In addition to her unmistakably vintage voice and exhaustive guitar work, it’s Lenker’s lyricism that grips me and many of her fans the tightest. She has a powerful, sobering way of detailing many aspects of life, but especially love. The way she articulates all the emotions that come with love, whether it’s lust, regret, or anything in between is nothing short of remarkable.

Lenker has the ability to paint a picture of what love should look like while reminding listeners of the often-unfortunate ways love manifests. Oftentimes, it feels as if she’s telling you something you know, but don’t want to admit you know.

To hear a stranger detail your own life and make you feel less alone in the process is one of art’s ultimate purposes, and Lenker’s words are the verbal equivalent of the most beautiful, naturalistic painting I’ve ever seen.

Perhaps the most impressive component of Lenker’s songwriting is how easy she makes it look. With the exception of her guitar work, her music often strikes me as very simple; there are usually no more than two instruments playing at a time, and her voice accompanies these with a simple melody.

Yet, the ingenuity of her chord progressions and virtuosic lyrics are unparalleled, and her ability to disguise its true complexity is a testament to her genius.

If there were any doubts before “Bright Future” that Adrianne Lenker is one of the greatest songwriters active now, they have all been resolved upon first listen.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Evan Weidl
Evan Weidl, Opinions Editor
Evan Weidl is a senior majoring in political science. He previously worked in the opinions section as a columnist.