Bright Future – Adrianne Lenker Review

by Arianna Kautz and Jospeh Diehl


Adrienne Lenker’s 5th studio album entitled Bright Future explores themes of bittersweet love and loss, topics Lenker has been no stranger to on past albums. Despite the consistent themes between albums, Bright Future is a unique piece within her discography. Exploring an extremely raw sound from front to back, the listening experience feels deeply intimate and personal. After hearing her singles prior to the album release, Ruined, Free Treasure, and Sadness as a Gift, I feel I had a clear idea of how the rest of the album would sound, but I was still continuously blown away track after track upon my initial listen. 

The record starts off with one of my personal favorite songs, Real House. Invoking heavy feelings of longing and fear of what it means to grow up, I found it extremely easy to relate to and oddly comforting despite its slightly haunting sound. Lenker was able to so clearly and vividly capture the experience of waiting for your “real life” to begin, deep down knowing that this is it. Real House reminded me a lot of Mitski’s Class of 2013 with both songs being directed towards their mothers longing for their love within their adult years to try and get through the overwhelming cognizance of reality. 

Released as one of the leading singles, Sadness as a Gift was the other stand-out track for me. Adrianne Lenker truly plays to her strengths on the entirety of Bright Future, however, her ability to let her lyricism speak for itself (literally and figuratively) with seemingly plain instrumentals really shows on this track. No one quite captures the complexity of bittersweetness the way that she does time and time again, with Sadness as a Gift being likely the most prominent example. Lenker speaks of accepting loss as it is, being grateful for the experiences regardless of the outcome, and coming to the understanding that not everything can last forever, detailed in the lyrics “The seasons go so fast; Thinking that this one was gonna last.” 

Overall, Adrianne Lenker’s Bright Future is a refreshingly unfiltered and authentic sound that shows off the very best of her both her ability to invoke familiar yet unique emotion from the listener and unparalleled songwriting. With every release, whether it’s her solo work or in conjunction with her band Big Thief, Lenker continuously proves herself to be among the folk and singer-songwriter greats, a place in history I’m sure she will be cemented in. 


Coming off of her last album, Songs, I had incredibly high expectations for this project as the previous record is one of my favorites of all time. Even with these high expectations in mind, I could not have been more blown away by this new album from her. Bright Future is such a perfect progression in the discography of Adrianne Lenker. Immediately you are not only hit with the raw, emotional songwriting she’s known for on the track Real House but the rawness of the recording. Recorded directly to tape, every single sound on this album comes through with extreme authenticity, sometimes, you can hear the performers murmur to themselves or the movement of Adrianne as she moves away from or into the mic. This environment created in the music only helps to make us a listener connect to her directly and the beautiful tracks she has played out over this album. Similar to her previous record, tracks like Cell Phone Says and Free Treasure are stripped back to just simply vocals and an acoustic guitar. These tracks stick out amongst the rest of the album because, unlike Songs, a wide variety of instrumentation is featured on a majority of these tracks. The piano played on the album adds an incredibly subtle and soothing layer to many of the already complex guitar performances from Lenker. This wider variety of performances is most highlighted on one of my favorite tracks Vampire Empire. I already loved the Big Thief version of this song before and after its official release but the way it’s played on Bright Future adds an entirely new level of storytelling to the track. The way she sings about the relationship portrayed in the original song has a sense of desperation and longing for what could’ve been. On Bright Future the tone of this track has completely changed, the performance displays a sort of growth from Adrianne as the song begins to feel almost reminiscent of what once was. 

I didn’t know quite what to expect when this album was released, I had high expectations but no idea of what it was going to sound like. I’m sure that I would’ve been happy with something that was just a sort of sequel to Songs but what was delivered leaves me incredibly satisfied. Songs was a moment in time for Adrianne, written and recorded during quarantine, it was a reflection of that time. Just like that time, as well as the music of Adrianne Lenker, it had to change and what came from that change was the emotional yet comforting and unique Bright Future. Solidifying her as one of the greatest singer-songwriters of the last few years by consistently delivering magnificent music. 

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