Due: 23 Mar
Adrianne Lenker announces her new solo album, Bright Future – out March 22nd on 4AD – marking Lenker’s first album since 2020’s songs & instrumentals. Featuring co-production from Philip Weinrobe, alongside contributions from Nick Hakim, Mat Davidson, and Josefin Runsteen.
Following the previously released single ‘Ruined,’ ‘Sadness As A Gift’ sees Lenker at her most familiar and warm, a track that is both utterly timeless, yet sounding new and surprising on every listen. The aliveness of Adrianne’s voice keeps her poetry aloft. She sings in a circle completed by guitar, piano, violin, and all voices. “The seasons go so fast // Thinking that this one was going to last // Maybe the question was too much to ask.”
On Bright Future, Adrianne Lenker, a songwriter known for turns of phrase and currents of rhyme, says it plainly, “You have my heart // I want it back.” Documented with analogue precision, what began as an experiment in collaboration, became proof Adrianne’s heart did return, full to the brim, daring her into the unknown.
During the high vibrance of autumn 2022, the Big Thief band member got lucky. Everyone could come. Three musical friends, “Some of my favourite people,” had space in their busy touring schedules to join her at the forest-hidden, analogue studio, Double Infinity. The musicians – Hakim, Davidson, and Runsteen – were known to Adrianne but newer to each other. “I had no idea what the outcome would be,” she recalls. The result? “It was magical,” she says. Adrianne’s musical risk became Bright Future, the studio’s first album, a 12-track telling of a journeyed heart.
Bright Future’s co-producer and engineer, Philip Weinrobe, prepared the studio. He has been Adrianne’s partner on previous solo albums, but this was something new. Adrianne did not intend to make an album. They would instead explore the songs with no expectations. Even with an open outcome, from the start, Phil wanted to capture the sessions with the purest, technical honesty. He rolled onto Double Infinity’s old cherry wood floors an Otari 1/2 inch 8-Track and Studer console.
To fill the air of the 150 year-old main room, Adrianne wanted piano, guitar, and violin. Mat Davidson plays them all. “I’ve known Mat a long time,” she says, “It doesn’t matter what instrument, his spirit just pours through.” At 17, Adrianne met Nick Hakim. She trusted her friend of 15 years to bring his sensitivity to the piano. “The way Nick would hold my songs, he would put every ounce of love.” Adrianne first met Josefin Runsteen in an Italian castle, and sought the classically trained violinist and percussionist’s “magnetic and contagious” energy. “She has such fire.” In addition to instrumentation, they made a chorus, adding carefully measured vocal harmonies. The sessions impressed and enchanted Adrianne. “I think the thing these people have in common, they are some of the best listeners I know musically. They have extreme presence.”
The shelter and ease of the woodland Double Infinity studio is an element of the recordings. “It felt like everyone’s nervous systems released,” she says. “Once we were IN the song, somehow we just knew. No one stopped a take. We didn’t listen back. I only listened after everybody else left.” As a result, Bright Future has the best qualities of thoughtful engineering with the spontaneous swim of a field recording. There are details to savour, fingertips on strings, felt pads nodding in the piano, the harmonies a few steps back, all smoothly laid to tape. It comes together to allow Adrianne’s songs to be as they are, unarmoured and light-footed.
Admirers of Adrianne’s solo music and Big Thief will find on Bright Future her reliable talent captured in stunning, magnetic clarity. In the company of parlour instruments, Adrianne’s modern melodic and lyrical inventions create new traditions. Her vocal flights at times outwit gravity, then land, guiding along an earthly path. The wholeness of the un-spliced recordings preserves a time of musical friendship during a golden season. The album also features the original recording of the now-beloved Big Thief song ‘Vampire Empire.’ Although they recorded for only some days, in Adrianne’s recollection, “It felt like we were together forever.”