Album Reviews

A Soothing Balm for the Soul: Adrianne Lenker’s ‘abysskiss’

Big Thief frontwoman Adrianne Lenker releases a solo album that is full of muted hand-picked guitar and transcendent poetry.

Frontwoman of Big Thief and supremely talented songwriter Adrianne Lenker is back with a solo offering that reflects the incredible deepness of her twenty-seven-year-old mind. Lenker transcendent style stems from what could be referred to as a sort of divine inspiration, described by her in an interview with Stereogum as “sitting in a space with invisible energy, invisible material, and just [thinking], ‘Is there anything here that’s like shimmering right now that I could try and sing to?’”A poet with more than a decade’s worth of songwriting experience, Lenker penned the album during stolen moments on Big Thief’s extensive tour schedule, capturing the immediacy of her emotion like a photograph. With no sign of slowing down, Lenker will be touring with Big Thief until the end of the month, with a solo European and North American tour scheduled for the beginning of 2019.

Lenker’s abysskiss is achingly vulnerable, at once both personal and universal. As the muted guitar and piano fade in on “terminal paradise,” the track unfolds like an art song, with lines like “Worm / will you return me / to the robin’s beak? / I’ll be a bird.” Minimal instrumentation puts the spotlight on Lenker’s poetic lyrics, which use concrete imagery at the surface to hint at deeper unbroached subjects, while leaving everything open to individual interpretation.

Through the arc of the ten song collection, the songs flow in a stream of consciousness style, touching time and again on the topic of birth. Examples can be found in titles such as “womb” and “cradle” as well is in the soothing lullaby “from”: “One ear to your womb / Puppy on the floor / Baby’s coming soon / I wonder if she’ll know /  Where she’s come from.” One of the singles from the album, “symbol” is possibly the most enigmatic, with verses full of internal rhymes that tumble out on a single note: “Fly make flea, make haste, make waste, eight makes infinity.” Symbolic of the cycle of life and death, the final song “10 miles” ends with the sweetly haunting lyric “To die in your arms / Your words forming again.” With each listen, the album blooms like a bouquet of roses, tender and ephemeral, prompting serious introspection on the part of the listener. Like the sweetest lullaby, abysskiss quiets the soul, even as it questions the deepest parts of human existence.

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