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The student news site of Carlisle High School

Periscope

The student news site of Carlisle High School

Periscope

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Isabelle Berriman
Isabelle Berriman
Sports Editor

A ‘Bright Future’ Ahead: Adrianne Lenker’s Newest Release Sparks Songwriting Revolution (Review)

A+%E2%80%98Bright+Future%E2%80%99+Ahead%3A+Adrianne+Lenker%E2%80%99s+Newest+Release+Sparks+Songwriting+Revolution+%28Review%29
Germaine Dunes

The whoosh of a tape and deft fingers on piano keys signal the start to Adrianne Lenker’s newest release Bright Future. Recorded straight to tape in an analog studio tucked away in the forest with accompaniment from Philip Weinrobe, her engineer and co–producer, as well as singer–songwriter (and frequent Big Thief collaborator) Mat Davidson, violinist and percussionist Josefin Runsteen, and alt–R&B auteur Nick Hakim, Bright Future features a basic palette of voice, guitar, piano, and violin (though Lenker’s brother and Runsteen play occasional percussion).

The opening track, “Real House,” is unlike the shaggy–dog tunes of Big Thief, a solemn piano ballad whose chords float alongside the associative lyrics. Lenker’s voice, soft and grief–stricken, eventually reveals the song’s subject as her mother, the ambiguous lyrics parting to something painfully sharp. With the muted, brutal sincerity of Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie and Lowell, “Real House ” delivers a devastating recounting of putting one’s childhood dog down and the first time Lenker saw her mother cry. By the end of the track, the listener leaves the spectral realm behind and enters into everyday heartbreak. 

“Vampire Empire,” a Big Thief fan favorite, gets an alternative rendition here, furiously agitated in comparison to the low simmering anger of the Big Thief version. Where “Real House” is airy and dreamlike, intertwined in the reverie of its lyrics, “Vampire Empire,” about passionate and destructive codependency, is looser and untethered. While most of the tracks throughout Bright Future provide a sense of physical space between the performers, “Vampire Empire” produces the sound of a group crowded around one tiny microphone, sweating on each other as they sing and strum— a real front porch jam session.

My personal favorite, “Free Treasure,” has been criminally underrated in other reviews of Bright Future. Accompanied by intricate fingerpicking on two acoustic guitars and the occasional addition of a male voice, Lenker’s lyrics, delicate and sweet, recall the solidity of love— of how to be known is to be loved. “Just when I think I couldn’t feel more / I feel a little more,” Lenker croons, something that seems barely possible— desirable even—  in the face of this raw, unshelled album.

Two of the deeper cuts, “Cell Phone Says” and “Donut Seam,” maintain a tight pace and tempo and what’s absent in the recording remains blatantly obvious in their lyrics. “Oh, giver of empathy / It is a gift so bitter that you brought to me,” she sings. The explanation of who is giving the gift is only revealed by the gift and its contents. Lenker doles out a little bit of humor on “Donut Seam,” in the title only. The lyrical content meditates on swimming in a body of water before it’s too late — nature and the climate crisis at the forefront.

Piecing together all of the poetry and narrative on the record, the overarching themes of nature and the cosmos, bodies, objects, relationships (both romantic and otherwise), begin to blur and merge; “You open up like a flower;” “How about the moon looking back, Saying ‘Glad you’re here’ / when we’re together only one thing moves;” “On the wings of moths and dragonflies / through the morning and evening, their sunset my sunrise / let them come to me like the breath I’m takin’;” “body like a bat in flight;” “I trip on my shoes and I trip on my shirt, get caught on the dirt in the yard;” and “I feel god here and there / people tell me it’s everywhere.” There is a sense of devotion and a relationship with nature and the universe— entirely transcendental of the human experience. 

Through this new record, Lenker— though already well established in the music scene through Big Thief and their other various solo projects— maintains this steady upwards trajectory seen throughout their career. Keep an eye on Adrianne Lenker folks, they’ve got a pretty ‘Bright Future’ ahead.

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About the Contributor
Ryleigh Underwood
Ryleigh Underwood, Editor-in-Chief
Ryleigh Underwood is a senior at CHS and this is their fourth year on the Periscope staff. They are the manager of CHS's improv troupe, Wingin' It, the poetry representative and photographer for Coffeehouse, and a member of NEHS and NAHS. Ryleigh also represents the Carlisle Area School District in SEPA (Students for Education in PA) and is very active within the education community. They look forward to working with the new staff and graduating with Periscope in good hands.
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