Many speak of a desire to detach themselves from the world, to get away from technocratic society and experience some form of romantic metaphysical freedom that appears the single greatest need within human and emotional permanence. Of course, for reasons usually material, this prospect is mostly never realised.
However, after a prolific four years with Big Thief, her 2018 debut solo album Abysskiss and the dissolution of her most recent relationship, Adrianne Lenker cut ties with the wider world and took refuge in the woods of West Massachusetts to record her second acoustic LP, songs. The outcome of this was a compilation of songs steeped in a distant, breezy melancholia that carried an irresistible embrace. The truth is, this album isn’t only symbolic of a physical separation, but an artistic one too.
Where Abysskiss was more in line with the beautiful solemn of Grouper, songs takes hold of the naturalism that defined Nick Drake’s elegance in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Intertwined with the tracks are moments of solitary acoustic improvisations, setting a scene to a space of blissful emptiness and isolation. The strings ring deep and full, the tones whole and giving, the listen utterly rewarding.
Despite songs being, what some might call, a tried and tested formula of stripped back recordings, this stands alone in the vast canon of 2020. These are tracks of openness and warmth that stand in stark contrast to output inspired by politics, emotional anguish and lockdown. A welcome release lives in these grooves, and there isn’t a better time for it.