Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief has released two new albums entitled ‘Songs’ and ‘Instrumentals’, written and recorded in April after Big Thief’s March tour was canceled due to coronavirus, and what better way to spend these lonely moments during this pandemic than to spend them listening intently to the deeply poetic and crisp 100% analog recordings of Lenker’s new songs released in music videos on YouTube, and available for purchase on 4AD.
Produced by Slopehouse and Adam Gundersheimer, and engineered and filmed by Philip Weinrobe, the music videos and recordings were produced in a cabin that Lenker decided to use in the forest, using tape machines, a binaural head, and a pile of XLR cables and used absolutely no digital process in the sound recording. Both albums are packaged together on double LP, CD, and cassette. The albums’ cover art, also to note, is very pleasing to the eye, with watercolor paintings done by Lenker’s grandmother Diane Lee.
However non-conforming methods of production and appeasing album cover art notwithstanding, the lyrics and simple instrumentation of acoustic guitar blended with the generous use of chimes and echoes of the forest sounds of birds chirping and leaves rustling in the wind are what speak so profoundly that any listener after a few tracks into ‘instrumentals’ can easily find themselves cathartically in a tranquil state of calm and interconnect with nature and the universe to the point where the mere reiki session renders obsolete, no offense to reiki therapists.
In the track ‘Zombie Girl’, with a music video showcasing Lenker strumming her guitar and singing inside the cabin she recorded in, the song’s lyrics deal with being in the moment and being one with nature while also begging the existential questions of whether or not emptiness in a young woman’s life should be something one should necessarily run away from – whether such feelings of completely embracing the present moment in nature can only truly be felt in our dreams as opposed to our waking lives with stanzas in the song like “we wake up to the road again// paved out for our lives”.
In ‘Dragon Eyes’, the beauty found in the simplicity of nature is again the theme for much if not all of Lenker’s poetry in her songs. It deals with someone who wants nothing more than a place with nature or with the lover who is changing her, or both, demonstrated in the verse “as the coastline is shaped by the wind// as we make love and you’re on my skin// you are changing me// you are changing”, and in this verse: “stars bloom// on a warm summer night// they have a clear view// without the bedroom light// I just want a place with you// I just want a place”.
In “Anything”, the poetry in the lyrics convey once again something pure in its delivery, with someone wanting to listen to someone’s benign stories in order to feel apart of something rather than be the one doing all the talking. It’s peaceful, like a folk lullaby.
In instrumental music videos like the 21-minute-long ‘Music for Indigo’, or the shorter ‘Mostly Chimes”, the echoing acoustic guitar and chimes in the au naturel recording studio of the cabin in the forest is performed with robustness and vigor with uncredited artists like the birds chirping periodically or the wind moving the chimes in sequence with the long echoes of the Tibetan singing bowls. I can feel my chakras being realigned just writing about it. Again, I should reiterate that I’m not trying to down reiki sessions, if they’re your thing. If anything, the music is perfect for such meditation.
So, whether you’re listening to this album to meditate, or to find meaning, or to expand your poetic awareness, or to escape from the stress of your life right now, or to embrace the hard moments and find solace in them, or to feel less lonely, these albums by Adrianne Lenker will surely transport you to a moment of simplicity, even in the complexity of her lyrics. One may find themselves one day humming or singing along to one of her songs from ‘Songs’ or ‘Instrumentals’ in a campfire, or by the sea, or tucked in before bed, or during a reiki session. These albums have got you covered.