One of most refined craftswomen of today’s indie rock, Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker has proven herself a wordsmith, a great penwoman in a world of mild scribblers and pseudo-poets. On Big Thief’s ‘Masterpiece’, the band’s towering, but amiable, breed of rock, consistently reached for the stars on its own merit, but while the record was poetically detailed, it wasn’t until 2017’s follow-up ‘Capacity’, that the group stripped their sound back to the point where Lenker’s lyrics really took over.
Completing her evolution, from her bold-voiced performance on ‘Masterpiece’, to her down-played resiliency on ‘Capacity’, with solo release ‘abysskiss’, Adrianne Lenker becomes quieter, yet more profound and powerful, with a chilling, enigmatic performance style, and a focus on cryptic, mysterious lyrics.
Everything that is heard on ‘abysskiss’ is purposeful, whether it be the precisely-picked acoustic guitar lines, the haunting backing pads, Lenker’s falsetto croons, or her poems of death and chilling romance. Wistfully, she sings “see my death become a trail, and the trail leads to a flower” on opening track ‘terminal paradise’, already romanticising her mortality. On Delphian lullaby ‘cradle’, she sings sweetly, softly and sorrowfully, perhaps to a child – her own nursery rhyme of equivocality – “like a storm, the air you steal, glacial form, the icy heel”.
Adrianne’s most skilful lyrical performance comes with ‘symbol’, amicable in its repetition, made up of strange, overlapping imagery – “fly make flea, make haste, make waste, eight makes infinity / times I’ve tried to make breaks, embrace for the enemy”.
Lenker’s songwriting ability doesn’t begin and end with her words – her musical compositions are just as beautiful, alongside her skeletal, acoustic arrangements. ‘blue and red horses’ is made up of recognisable, diatonic chords, made that bit more tenebrous with her emphasis on minimalism, and aching vocals. The title track follows, and it features these short guitar breaks, with clashing notes, an interesting look at how Adrianne combines peacefulness with discord.
Unlike a number of her contemporaries, Adrianne Lenker seemingly refuses to rest on her laurels as a singer-songwriter. Her natural mystique places her above the rest, and her lyrical adeptness will stand out in any crowd. ‘abysskiss’ is a beautiful, swooning, statement on Lenker’s part, its poetry is startling, and its vibrancy is evident.