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The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

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‘Bright Future’ beautifully blends alternative, folk music

Adrianne Lenker’s new alternative album “Bright Future” released on March 22.

“We shared in the basement / As the fern bent to the window / And we drew to alignment / As the water soaked the pillow.” An excerpt of the song “Ruined” from Adrianne Lenker’s new solo album “Bright Future,” this verse completely disregards rhyme or reason, a frequent occurrence within this new release.

Despite the initial nonsense, in true Ms. Lenker style, every song on “Bright Future” is nonetheless packed full of evocative lyricism and somber instrumentation, turning the scrambled into the sophisticated and making for a hauntingly genuine album.  

Ms. Lenker is an alternative music artist and a five-time Grammy nominee, who identifies as queer and often deals with gender identity and the gender binary in her songs. On March 22, “Bright Future” became her first album to be released in four years. “Bright Future” includes 12 tracks spanning a duration of 43 minutes, expertly blending alternative sound with an acoustic folk twist. 

Comparable to Bob Dylan or Willie Nelson, Ms. Lenker’s lyrics are elegiac and busting with imagery. On top of being a solo artist on this album, Ms. Lenker is the lead singer, guitarist and principal songwriter with Big Thief, where her contributions have received five Grammy nominations.

From the very start, “Bright Future” is brutal. The album opens with the suffocatingly sad track “Real House,” featuring just piano and Ms. Lenker’s voice. Following no linear narrative but telling a story nonetheless, “Real House” centers around childhood pain and growing up. Ms. Lenker was born into a religious cult in Indianapolis where she lived in a van with her parents. At age 4, her family abandoned the cult and moved into a “real” house, an experience echoed in Ms. Lenker’s lyrics: “We moved into a real house / A wild field behind it / I wanted to be an inventor, collected scraps to make a portal / I wanted so much for magic to be real.”  

“Free Treasure,” the fifth track, opens with the lines, “Do you wanna go to the river? / I know this spot so deep and green / With wild raspberries and apple trees / And rocks to climb between / Water like a washing machine.” The song follows the experience of the singer seemingly falling in love, presented through tasteful harmonies and guitar picking. Even if not set to music, “Free Treasure” could stand alone as a poem.

Ms. Lenker’s “Bright Future” is a breath of fresh air from the techno and digital music sound dominant in so many albums today. Ms. Lenker has created an album that is tremendously well crafted, yet its true capacity for resonance lies in its poignant simplicity.

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About the Contributor
Ari Novak
Ari Novak, Reporter
Ari Novak is a member of the Class of 2027 and serves as a reporter. She began writing for the Midway in the 2023-24 school year as a ninth grader. Outside of journalism, she enjoys playing piano, listening to music and Duolingo. Awards: 2024 Illinois Journalism Education Association: First place, audio journalism, Audio: Chicago music school experiences boom in business

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    JasonMay 24, 2024 at 1:26 pm

    Wonderful review!