Secret Meeting score: 82
by Phil Scarisbrick
One of last year’s best records, Capacity, saw Big Thief create an album that pondered many questions. It took the experiences of frontwoman – Adrianne Lenker – and presented them as folk compositions that were as beautiful as they were intriguing. The full band set up enabled them to create a dynamic for Lenker’s songs that allowed the emotional impact to resonate, with Buck Meek acting as the perfect musical foil for Lenker’s tales. abysskiss sees Lenker strip all this right back as she goes solo.
The whole album is a simple blend of voice and largely finger-picked guitar – save a few flourishes of synth and strings – and underlines just how talented a songwriter Lenker is. The collection of ten songs are visually presented completely in a lower case font, perhaps a subtle nod to the understated melancholy that we hear throughout. Opener – terminal paradise, asks questions of mortality, whereas following track, from, tackles loneliness. Such subjects are shared experiences for us all, and Lenker’s delicate delivery hooks you with an empathetic grasp.
Undoubted album highlight, cradle, is melodically infectious. Coming right at the end of side one, its chorus uses the classic juxtaposition of euphoric melody delivering dark lyrical content as she sings, “Baby, you’re still too proud to come down/Maybe I’m still too loud to hear/All the waves ascend and disappear“.
blue and red horses is another high point that exudes a hushed confidence, while final track 10 miles sees Lenker taking on the role of being a mother. Both display an ever developing knack for writing deep, timeless folk.
Recorded in just a week with her friend Luke Temple, abysskiss sees Lenker step out on her own and completely own the vulnerability that that must place on someone. While she has released a solo album before – 2014’s Hours Were The Birds – the stakes weren’t as high as they are now. After last year’s success with Capacity, there is a far wider audience anticipating any new release. Lenker has risen to that challenge and created an album that you’ll struggle to forget once you’ve heard it.