In the current wave of emo-influenced, Midwestern indie bands, the Minneapolis-based band Big Thief stands out for two reasons —frontwoman Adrianne Lenker’s haunting voice and her eerie, deeply empathetic style of storytelling. On last year’s excellent Big Thief album “Capacity,” Lenker’s songs such as “Mythological Beauty” contrasted beautiful arrangements with raw, occasionally disturbing lyrics. Her prowess for creating such strangely affecting atmospheres is displayed even further on her new solo album “abysskiss,” her first since the formation of Big Thief.
However, it’s much more than just an acoustic Big Thief album. Though the album is primarily acoustic guitar and Lenker’s voice, it’s anything but sparse or simple. Arguably the album’s best track, “symbol” features a lush arrangement that nearly resembles something from Jonny Greenwood’s elegant “Phantom Thread” score transposed for guitar. “Out of your mind” prominently features distorted electric guitars up until the very end, when they become relegated to the background in favor of a gorgeous repeated acoustic melody. The album is full of quietly brilliant moments throughout and its subtly, while initially somewhat frustrating, becomes rewarding with repeated listens.
It’s not a complete departure from her previous music, though. “Blue and red horses” is the closest the album comes to a stripped-down version of the most emotionally stirring Big Thief songs, while “what can you say” feels like a traditional folk song that’s been passed down through generations. For a modern, indie folk album, there’s a surprising amount of variety displayed here, with some songs sounding similar to Big Thief and others being more indebted to chamber folk music of the 1970s.
“Abysskiss” is warmer and more inviting than its eerie monochrome cover would suggest, and yet it still manages to maintain the haunted atmosphere of Lenker’s previous work. It’s a perfect release for October, as the music within conjures up images of haunted houses, falling leaves and colder weather. The album has surprises in store for those expecting straightforward indie folk and ultimately is an incredibly consistent release from an artist to watch.
Edited by Siena DeBolt | firstname.lastname@example.org