Adrianne Lenker, lead singer and songwriter of indie-folk band Big Thief, released her sixth solo album on March 22nd after teasing the launch with a slew of singles in late February. Bright Future, with a discography particularly interested in the unfinished qualities of memory and love, leaves little room for a listening experience not marred by nostalgia. Lenker’s scanty production and soul-baring lyrics create an album that can most simply be defined as candid, with each song boasting a tangible honesty that will most definitely ruin my life once the weather gets colder. 

The first track, “Real House”, serves as an apt indicator of the album’s overall tone. The lyrics, free-flowing with unsyncopated syllables that pair clumsily with a piano-fronted instrumental, lend an almost improvisational feel to the song. Mirroring this messy, somewhat disjointed musicality, Lenker sings of her past, abandoning a strict chronology for the associational properties of emotion. Transitioning from naivete to heartache and then back to a kiddish longing, Lenker manages to both grieve and resurrect the more hidden, overlooked moments of childhood. 

The motif of time and emotional permanence continues throughout the album, most notably apparent in my favorite track: “Fool.” The song begins with a fuller, more well-produced sound than those preceding it, opening with a finely-tuned fingerpicking intro that functions as the song’s hook. With an instrumental that is both devoid of bass and drums, Lenker fosters a unique, lightly textured composition that juxtaposes the practically devastating lyrics. Playing on the familiar heartache of feeling unable to label a relationship, Lenker writes of the perceived progression of the lives of those around her while her’s stands still as she waits for an indecisive lover. She dishes out possibilities that feel hopeful, yet evokes an almost acute desperation in her willingness to do whatever her other chooses as long as they actually choose. Lenker verbalizes the universal experience of a love that borders on pathetic, as the song ends with an acceptance of her partner leaving if it means she gets some form of closure. “Fool” presents itself as one of Lenker’s most grand feats of lyricism, attaining a level of vulnerability normally impossible to properly execute in a way that doesn’t read as overdone. Hitting on the indignity of a love that feels unrequited, Lenker creates an overall listening experience that feels staunchly personal to both her and her audience. As someone who has played this song an almost unbearable amount of times since its release, each repeat manages to only further solidify its place as the foundation of my personalized Hierarchy of Needs. 

I think it would be impossible to fully evaluate this album without touching on the diversity of musicality Lenker incorporates into Bright Future. The album’s sixth track, a solo version of “Vampire Empire,” artfully calls attention to the meticulous nature of the untidy. Originally released under Big Thief, Lenker offers a newer, more sloppy twist to the pre-established fan favorite with her incorporation of shouty vocals, muddled guitar, and fiddle-like violin parts. The song stands out in its indulgence of the folk genre, bearing typical, dense Appalachian-style instrumentation with the exception of quirky xylophone quips scattered throughout the score. Lenker’s “Vampire Empire” is frenzied, with a refreshing sound that distinguishes it from the other songs on the album. After falling so madly in love with its initial release, Lenker’s nuanced variation only made me think of it as something of a soulmate with its more raw take on the track’s lyrics. Singing of an adoration characterized by destruction, Lenker continues to parade her ability to break the hearts of those who listen, but this time to a more jaunty tune. 

While I’m sure I could write a manifesto on Lenker’s songwriting prowess, there is perhaps no better testament to her talent than “Evol,” which I’ve decided is now the only piece of music to ever exist. The song, a homophone for “evil” and an anagram for “love,” gives away its meaning in the title as Lenker writes of the cruelty of a sacrificial obsession. With lyrics containing a collection of palindromes as a representation of one relationship taking on many different meanings, Lenker uses wordplay to actualize her feelings of loss for the parts of herself she’s given away to someone else. “Evol” is visceral in its convictions, with Lenker’s mourning almost palpable with every word, both backward and forwards. 

Bright Future ends on a deliberate note with “Ruined,” in which Lenker calls attention back to the reminiscent qualities of “Real House” as she aches for an ex-lover. However, the song differentiates itself from the start of the album as Lenker no longer communicates a need to explain her emotions through memory, but rather, just for what they are. The track is practically perfect in its placement, showcasing Lenker’s various stages of growth as she processes, and simultaneously laments, what once was. She understands that feelings do not need to be strictly trapped in past experiences but that they can be unique to a time and place, an idea Lenker fosters throughout the album and is truly recognized in the lyricism of “Ruined.”To say that I was absolutely enamored with this album would be a gross understatement of my thoughts about it. Lenker manages to combine the elements of calculation and recklessness as she picks her own brain, crafting a discography that is shocking in its relatability despite it being so close to the artist. Bright Future is, at its core, unguarded; and as Lenker writes to unravel the ties between the then and the now, she writes to speak for an audience of people who struggle to put their feelings into words. This album is one you stare at the ceiling to, and one that I will forever regard as a very painful (yet welcome) addition to my sad girl playlists.