The Student News Site of Abington Senior High School

The Abingtonian

The Student News Site of Abington Senior High School

The Abingtonian

The Student News Site of Abington Senior High School

The Abingtonian

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Bright Future by Adrianne Lenker Review


Adrianne Lenker, vocalist of Brooklyn-based indie folk group Big Thief and instrumentalist in her own right, returned to solo production Friday, March 22nd with the release of her highly-anticipated sixth album Bright Future. This release follows the acclaimed success of the songs & instrumentals album duet, conceived and created during the pandemic-induced Big Thief content break. Its relatively folksy and piano ballad influences might surprise those who had not followed the preceding four single releases, or even those less recently introduced to her work. However, while I also so far prefer her earlier releases, I feel that this album marks a significant and long-building diversion into more experimental branches within her multifaceted niche, all while maintaining the same exceptional sense of narrative style and songwriting signature to her skillset. Here’s a review, broken down track by track (my favorites/recommendations are starred):

Real House

I’m a child humming / Into the clarity of black space / Where stars shine like tears on the night’s face / With a cool wind

Lenker opens the album with the deeply vulnerable and expansive Real House, in which a piano core propels the piece’s narrative lyricism. Singles from this album disregarded, this serves as a step into the first real instance of piano that we’ve seen from Lenker, who meanders over these instrumentals with equally stripped sentiments on life’s transitionary stages and what she describes as a discovery of that “real house” – a sense of home both within the body and within the soul. It is also the first of many violin embellishments on the album.

I don’t feel that this track is meant to stand alone, but it serves as an interesting way of using that opportunity to immerse one’s audience in the album with that first track – doing something slightly unconventional with this casualness that begs the audience to listen and focus that eagerness on the lyrics going into the rest of the album.


Sadness As A Gift  ✦

We could see the sadness as a gift and still / Feel too heavy to hold

So far, while it was the second of the four singles, Sadness As A Gift is the most popular song on the album, and one that I overlooked at first just for it to end up being one of my favorite tracks when I listened to the whole release for the first time. Thematically, its popularity makes sense – it’s an instrumentally upgraded version of her previous work, guitar-led, with a beautiful violin melody that leads into a duet in the bridge. It continues that feeling of transition and timely acceptance from the first track. 


Fool  ✦

Heart out of sight / Body and mind fistfight / Heart out of sight / Body like a bat in flight

Fool was the third single, and the one that most renewed my excitement for the release of the full album. While returning to the finger-picking technique signature to her established style, Lenker takes on a really unique and eclectic sound with this song that is, in its own way, still divergent from her past work. The song itself feels compilatory, drawing on the life updates of the different people in Lenker’s life–much like the consistent appreciation of life that her music draws upon — and incorporating a feeling Lenker herself describes as “loopy,” while maintaining a sense of “buoyant” joy and fun. 


No Machine

Drive around, live from town to town / To the ocean of your love, I am a river

I’ll admit that No Machine slipped me by upon a full listen; because it follows such exceptional previous tracks, this comes off as a relatively simple and straightforward song (for Lenker.) Though, somewhat interestingly, artists Nick Hakim, Mat Davidson & Josefin Runsteen are cited for providing harmony on this album – a main feature of this track, which showcases very pretty & poetic lyrics as always. It’s clear that Lenker has a sense for selecting and combining the most effectively refreshing words and images, which works nicely for the simple little love song/ode to simplicity that this is.


Free Treasure  ✦

Show me / Understanding / Patience and pleasure / The eleventh dimension / Free treasure

The last of the four single releases, and arguably the most reminiscent of her other music, Free Treasure uses the familiar structure of a light but complex guitar melody to communicate an appreciation for nature and the little things in life and relationships. Another duet, it continues the idea from the previous track of a love that surpasses machinery (modernization) and the passage of time. This is definitely another one of my favorites, as it reminds me a lot of her previous releases.


Vampire Empire  ✦

I am empty ’til she fills, alive until she kills / In her vampire empire, I’m the fish and she’s my gills

Seeing this title in the song lineup intrigued me, as I instantly recognized it as a recent Big Thief song, and currently one of their most popular releases. The version on this album is a solo rendition, with a more instrumentalist and rhythmic approach. It’s as beautiful as any version of this song can be, powered by incredible and illustrative songwriting, but especially refreshing as it uses the much-mourned unreleased lyrics from the original demo (!!). 



Love spells evol, backwards, people / Words back, words backwards are lethal

Another emotional and simple piano melody complemented by violin, Evol explores different palindromes, one of which being the title itself, and how the versatility of language renders meaning fragile. This track holds interest and takes the listener smoothly into the record’s B side, which I would describe as having a generally sleepy and “nice” feel –from this point on, I’m not sure I would need to return to any of these songs individually. Although they may be unremarkable as individuals, the lineup works as part of a very listenable record.



Four-two-five-six bedrooms / So everyone can close a door

Relatively short and (intentionally) vague; Candleflame leaves little to say. The simple piano/guitar duet and more accompanying backing vocals continue to evoke an older style of indie folk melody.


Already Lost  

Shadows shatter at the edges of a smile / We’ve been down here for a while

Although I would never usually care for banjo, it complements the soft guitar and layered harmonies from Lenker nicely in Already Lost. I don’t often listen to folk or country, so one of the things that I love about Adrianne Lenker and Big Thief is that they interpret and utilize influences from those genres in ways more palatable to their audience even as they’ve begun to lean more into those styles over time. This song is growing on me as an individual piece, but it is also, like its predecessors, very simple.


Cell Phone Says 

Oh, giver of empathy / It is a gift so bitter that you brought to me

Cell Phone Says is the oldest known song on the album, and it does feel like something that might have been too simple for an earlier solo or band record. While it puts to music some really gorgeous and sentimental poetry, it’s just not the most (re)listenable song to me. I don’t usually like timely or technological allusions in music, but this song is thankfully tasteful, with the sentiment depicted feeling universally resonant and virtually timeless here.


Donut Seam

Don’t it seem like a good time for swimming / Before all the water disappears?

Another vocalist, Nick Hakim, opens Donut Seam, which muses on the importance of finding happiness through an existentialist perspective. Although the featured voices go well together, this is another track that I appreciate the lyrical sentiment of rather than for being a listenable song.



Until I’m brave enough to call you / I just fall through every time / I wish I’d waved when I saw you / I just watched you passing by

While Ruined is a largely effective closing track, I’m not sure that I would listen to it as much else. It caught me a little off guard when it turned out to be the first single from this album, since the piano ballad was definitely a turn from Lenker’s previous music. However, it ended up being a rather cyclical closer when juxtaposed with the opening Real House in a way that I’ve since come to appreciate. This track sticks its landing, successfully reaching for and grounding those strong emotional themes present throughout the album, while also serving as a powerful meditation on those ideas. 


Upon reflection, I definitely recommend any of Lenker’s other music even (& especially) if this wasn’t your speed; songs is one of, if not my favorite, albums of all time, so I’m happy to see it trending. Of course, I also recommend anything from Big Thief – their music is undergoing a similar evolution, so I suggest starting from their earlier albums, especially if you have an interest in smoother and more produced indie rock. 

FURTHER WATCHING ~ Adrianne Lenker – Bright Future ALBUM REVIEW by theneedledrop

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Kellie Gimpel
Kellie Gimpel, Arts & Entertainment Editor
Hi! I’m Kellie, senior and co-editor of the Abingtonian’s Arts & Entertainment section. When I’m not fulfilling my personal niches through the paper, I enjoy reading, listening to and playing music, and watching movies and television. Aside from staying at home with my dog or frequenting the library, I’m often found with friends, at the gym, or out for a walk. I’m so excited about what this year’s opportunities have to offer!

Comments (0)

All The Abingtonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *