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Advance Review - Adrienne Lenker: 'Songs' & 'Instrumentals'

(Photo Credit - Genesis Baez)

Advance Review - Adrienne Lenker: Songs & Instrumentals (October 23, 2020)

With the Big Thief tour being cut short, Adrianne Lenker’s response was to isolate herself in a cabin with some close friends and write an album “inside an acoustic guitar”. Lenker was immediately fond of how every note she struck reverberated in that small space. After picking up her good friend and engineer Phil Weinrobe and a lot of analog recording equipment, on April 20th they ventured to mountains in western Massachusetts.

The new works by Lenker come in the form of songs and instrumentals. Instrumentals is only two tracks long but still spans the course of 37 total minutes. The album consists of the acoustic sessions Lenker and Weinrobe began and ended each day with. While the albums are connected, Lenker is quoted saying that the albums are also “separate experiences’. Instrumentals seems to ponder on grief and the shared human experience during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. It also serves as a meditation on the primitiveness Lenker had found in her time at the cabin which consisted of the daily routines of cooking on the wood stove and walking down to the stream to bathe.

songs was preempted by the singles “anything” and “dragon eyes”. Having only used tape recordings with the absence of any digital enhancement, “anything” is something special to hear, Lenker harmonizing with herself. There’s a certain amount of intimacy transferred from her words to my ears and if I close my eyes I feel as if she’s singing right to me. The sadness and the sincerity she shares makes me feel less guilty for being away from the world for a couple months, deep in my own meditation of “What’s next?”

“It feels strange to try and pair words with the release of music. I don’t know if there is a graceful way to do it in these times. Please, if this is something that you feel you won’t benefit from, just let it pass away. If you could use some support in the form of songs, give it a spin. These songs have helped me heal. I hope that at least in some small way this music can be a friend to you.”

With these words from Lenker herself, I feel at ease explicating how much this album means to me. She doesn’t expect everyone to love this album, and I find that very endearing. I certainly did find a friend in this album. I lost count of how many times in a row I’ve listened to “forwards beckon rebound”. Although we have tried to go back to some semblance of normal after a few months of uncertainty that still lingers, the simple fact is nothing will be the same. It’s heartbreaking going to places that used to be so lively with camaraderie and jovialness that are now ridden with empty tables and a lack of a crowd. This album came out in the perfect time and place and will always make me think of March and April in 2020.

Rating - 5/5

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