Adrianne Lenker

photo provided by Adrianne Lenker

Adrianne Lenker’s “Bright Future” makes sense of a hollow world

Dan Harrison




Genres: Folk, indie, soft kinda sadness

For fans of: Big Thief, The Lumineers, Bob Dylan

The first thing you notice, tending to the wreckage of a breakup, is the absence: an empty bed, a lonely dinner table, a quiet phone. It’s the distinct knowing that you no longer share the same moments with the same person. Your routines feel strangely hollow, as if a silent ghost is following just behind your footsteps.

What follows in this fallow world is a curious sort of hope. In time, your longing for what you’ve lost will overtake you, pointing you towards a brighter future that might, graciously, hold something more. 

The first thing you notice, listening to Adrianne Lenker’s Bright Future, is the absence: gone are the carefully layered cacophonies of Dragon New Warm Mountain, gone are the twisting, playful harmonies of Lenker and Buck Meek’s A-sides/B-sides. Gone, in fact, is everything but the lilting tones of Lenker’s voice, some softly plucked guitar, and piano hiding under the surface.  

The stories tell themselves. In “Sadness as a gift,” Lenker sings “you could write me someday, and I think you will / we could see the sadness as a gift and still / feel too heavy to hold.” There’s the fallow world, there’s the promise. You know it well, sifting every year through an old shoebox of love letters and artifacts. It’s a gift, to have felt what you felt, to live there just for a breath.

On “Evol,” Lenker is simply showing off – “Teach, cheat, part, trap / you have my heart I want it back / God, dog, devil, lived / The giver takes, the taker gives.” You revisit every moment of every relationship, where “Love spells evol,” and reel in the confusion. Read the lyrics as you listen to this one and sink into the arms of one of our greatest songwriters.  

The first time you hear “Ruined,” you sit wrapped in bedsheets and weep. It’s gorgeous. There isn’t much more to say, other than “you come around, I’m ruined.” Wreckage, ruins, breakups. No matter how much promise the future holds, no matter how much you tidy your spaces, you will always know this absence. After a time, it will become a part of you. Grow into your chips and cracks, fill the spaces left behind with a happy sort of reconstruction. 

This is the key to the album. It is not beautiful despite the absence of Lenker’s usual company. No, it is beautiful precisely because it is only Adrianne Lenker, alone, making sense of a hollow world. 
Sometimes, you will learn, we grow through the seasons of our loss. Your bright future is tinged with sadness, yes, but that is what makes it so. Soon, you will move into a new house, a new city, a new life. You will bring a shoebox of love letters. You will play Adrianne Lenker’s Bright Future. You will cry heavy, happy tears.