Adrianne Lenker has been writing songs since she was 10 years old. Her “back story” has been well documented in various interviews and profiles for Big Thief over the last 3 years. Despite, or more likely because of the constant touring and studio work, the last few years have been some of the most prolific for Lenker as a writer. Songs pop out at soundcheck. They pop out on late night drives between cities. They pop out in green rooms, hotel stairwells, gardens, and kitchens around the world.
In the hands of Lenker, songwriting is not an old dead craft. It is alive. It is vital. With little regard for standard album cycle practice or the idea of resting at all, Lenker set out to make a document. Songs can be slippery and following 2+ years on the road with Big Thief, Lenker felt a growing need to document this particular time in her life in an intimate, immediate way. The result is her new album, abysskiss, via Saddle Creek.
“I want to archive the songs in their original forms every few years,” explains Lenker. “My first solo record I made was Hours Were the Birds. I 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.”
Following a two week road trip through the southwestern United States, Lenker headed into the studio with longtime friend Luke Temple. Temple put on his loosely fitting, bright orange, 100% wool producer hat and for one week they made music. The songs chosen for this collection were the songs that felt the most alive in the room. These are not castaways or B-sides. Some of these songs have been alive for years while some were written just days before the session. Some will appear in different future forms, some will not. The thread that connects these songs is not something that can easily be put down in words. Intuition connects these songs. They are a record of a time.
With this collection, Lenker further illuminates to the listening public what those close to her already know; here we have a songwriter of the highest order, following her voice and the greater Voices that pass through her with an unflinching openness and clarity of translation.
Dubbed “Best New Track” by Pitchfork, “symbol” finds beauty in the chaos by stripping the art down to its most basic form. Shot in the heart of Coney Island, NYC, and directed by Adam Gundersheimer and V Haddad, the “symbol” video takes an autobiographical approach to the beachfront haven by focusing not on a boardwalk or theme parks, but capturing intimate moments between the camera and the wildly diverse group of individuals that creates this petri dish of culture. When most people hear things like “Coney Island” or “New York City,” it’s easy to generalize and lump an entire city into one personality type, but “symbol” captures the individual essence of each unique smiling face that lights up the camera. The directors say of the video, “The sincerity and intimacy of symbol inspired us to take a documentary approach to the music video…. The project is a sort of tribute and love letter to New York City, Coney Island, and all of the people who make those places so special. We spent a couple of days walking the boardwalk and taking video portraits of people we met. We documented whatever they felt like sharing. It was such a warm experience – each person was so giving.”