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Adrianne Lenker is a lot of things. The Minnesota native, perhaps best known as the lead singer and songwriter for the Brooklyn-based indie rock group Big Thief, crafts beautiful, poetic lyrics. In Big Thief, they’re usually set to fuzzy guitars and brought to life by Lenker’s voice, alternately gentle and capable of thunderous power. Outside of Big Thief, Lenker leans softer in her solo work, embracing the contemplative aspects of her voice.
Lenker calls her latest solo album Abysskiss a “document” and an “archive.” It’s meant to portray the feelings she had for two straight years on the road with Big Thief, when inspiration stirred and passed in a blur. According to Lenker, her first solo record Hours Were The Birds, was recorded when she “had just turned 21 and moved to New York City where I was sleeping in a warehouse, working in a restaurant and photographing pigeons. Now five years later, another skin is being shed” with Abysskiss.
“Shedding skin” is such a fantastic, apt description of what Abysskiss sounds like, and the album is full of metaphors like this. Comfortable relationships aren’t between two people — Lenker bewitches the subjects into nature. “We could be the riptide, or two mountains growing still,” Lenker sings on “Womb.” Tears drip “like a warm precious spring.” On “Terminal Paradise,” Lenker asks for death, or maybe it’s not death but just a change in corporeal form, another shedding of skin. “Worm / Will you return me / To the robin’s beak? / I’ll be a bird.” The end isn’t something to fear. For Lenker, it’s “terminal paradise.” There’s life in that new skin. “See my death become a trail / And the trail leads to a flower / I will blossom in your sail / Every dreamed and waking hour.”
Lenker sings about her birth, her death, her life as a plant, her frustrations loving herself, and her life as a little boy waiting for his angel. It’s a personal record, but not in the typical way of indie rock or singer songwriters. She’s not narrating the fallout of a past relationship or diving deep into herself to mine these lyrics — it’s more like she’s diving out, becoming something else and imagining the contours outside the human bodily experience.