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The student news site of Carlisle High School

Periscope

The student news site of Carlisle High School

Periscope

Staff Profile
V Shutt
V Shutt
Staff Writer

Authentic and Vulnerable: Why Adrianne Lenker’s Music Endures (Editorial)

NOT+A+LOT+JUST+FOREVER%3A+A+collage+of+Adrianne+Lenkers+most+popular+albums+including+Songs%2C+Instrumentals%2C+Abysskiss%2C+and+Hours+Were+the+Birds
Scarlett
NOT A LOT JUST FOREVER: A collage of Adrianne Lenker’s most popular albums including Songs, Instrumentals, Abysskiss, and Hours Were the Birds

As a forever advocate for any and all music, it is hard for me to pick out a favorite artist. I am always finding new bands and listening to different songs, so as time goes on, my music taste develops and grows along with me. It is hard to say I have a definite favorite artist, as it is always changing, but as I find myself at the end of my high school career, I am able to relate to more types of music and can especially feel more of an emotional connection with artists that touch upon deeper topics and include more complex lyrics. The only artist that has fulfilled this new side of myself is Adrianne Lenker. Although not as popular, Lenker is one of the very few artists that I have been listening to consistently for years that hasn’t ever left my rotation. Her messages and lyrics mean something different through different stages of my life, and I feel such a strong connection to her because of how I am able to relate no matter what situation I find myself in. 

Despite always finding something new to listen to, I have been listening to Adrianne Lenker’s newest album, Songs, more than anything else. Although Lenker’s album Songs and her album in conjunction, Instrumentals, were released in 2020, her lyrics, as well as the instrumental composition are timeless in a whole new way. Lenker’s raw emotion and unique voice creates a perfect mix of the Folk and Indie styles that is satisfying to the listener, yet interesting. Lenker is also the lead singer, supporting guitarist, and main lyricist for the popular band Big Thief. She engages her audience in a truly authentic manner with personal and relatable lyrics. Whether in her solo music, or with her band members, she never fails to apply her own interpretation to make it special for her audience, as well as herself. 

Adrianne Lenker had an unconventional childhood where she grew up in Minnesota, living out of a van after her family left a Christian cult. She didn’t attend high school, but got her GED at age 16 instead, and started her music career at a very young age, writing her first song at 13. Lenker has spoken openly about her family’s history in interviews, and she addresses how much her childhood has impacted her as an adult, as well as in her music. Ever since she was 6 years old, she’s played the guitar along with singing, and it was her dad who originally discovered her talent. He insisted she make something out of her talent, and focus heavily on her future music career. In interviews, Lenker has discussed the music she and her dad would produce, but how she never felt connected to it, as she does now with her current creations. Once she ran away from her home at 16, she received a full scholarship to the Berklee College of Music, in Boston, where she used her natural talent to develop her technique, as well as refining her artistry.

In her album Songs, Lenker’s lyrics tend to focus on the natural aspects of the world and its connection to the human experience. She writes from a deep place that is raw and emotional which curates a more intimate experience for the listener. Although specific, her lyrics are so detailed and carefully chosen that anyone can find something of importance in them. In her pieces, Lenker talks openly about her past and current experiences, especially dealing with romantic relationships, but the general messages are open for interpretation, as they cover topics people of all kinds can find comfort in. Through the lyrics “dreaming i could feel your skin/but the dream escaped so easily” in the song “zombie girl”, Lenker details the feeling of separation and isolation from a significant other, and puts into words the pain of longing for someone you care deeply about. Apart from relationships, she also discusses childhood pain and the idea of leaving a part of you behind. The lyrics of “half return”, such as, “standing in the yard/dressed like a kid/the house is white and the lawn is dead”, emphasizes this idea as Lenker describes the setting as if it were an emotion. She has a way of allowing the listener to insert themselves in every picture she paints. 

Lenker presents these heavy topics with a gentle touch and meticulous care that soothes any type of heartache, and provides an overwhelming feeling of acceptance in return. Her calm and relaxed melodies have a way of understanding the complexities of human emotions without trying too hard, or seeking for attention. Her songs can draw anyone in without any sort of dramatic or overdone commercially written lyrics. She has a way of making the most painful things in life sound beautiful, without diminishing them. 

Although I find myself constantly listening to all types of music, I naturally am drawn to Adrianne Lenker, as her songs do an unmatched job at making me feel comfortable and validated. Despite loving every song she produces, I have a few that stick out to me that are un-skippable in all my playlists. “anything” and “ingydar,” both in the album Songs, are my all-time favorites, playing them at least once a day. “anything” is the type of song that you can feel past the surface. It has the effect of an experience, and reaches deeper than simply listening to a song. I interpret “anything” as talking about the idea of reaching for someone you love, that isn’t necessarily in your life anymore. The feeling of missing someone so deeply that it hurts beyond an emotional pain. The lyrics “wanna listen to the sound of you blinking, wanna listen to your hands soothe” and “I don’t wanna talk about anything/I wanna kiss kiss your eyes again/wanna witness your eyes lookin” are so beautifully concise, yet artistically vulnerable and free.

The lyrics Lenker writes may mean something different to her than it does to me, or hold a different value to someone else, but no matter the context, her songs are there to support any feelings through her beautiful simplicity, yet complex metaphors. Listening to her songs means more to me than any other music, and she will forever stay in my cycle of favorite artists.

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About the Contributor
Scarlett Learned, Staff Writer
Scarlett is a senior at Carlisle High School and is very excited to begin her first year as a member of the Periscope staff. She is a dancer at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and spends most of her time focusing on ballet. She loves performing various ballets each year and looks forward to the local productions CPYB puts on including works that she has previously choregraphed. Outside of the ballet studio, she enjoys listening to music, reading and writing, and hanging out with her friends and family.
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