Adrianne Lenker, known as the frontwoman for Big Thief, remains unparalleled in her ability to craft beautifully abstruse stories in her songwriting—she reveals profound truths about the world by concealing those truths beneath subdued melodies. “Symbol” is the most recent single off of her upcoming solo record abysskiss. The song’s stripped-down acoustic style is misleadingly simple, for as the song progresses, a quiet electronic rhythm sets in just as Lenker’s voice begins to harmonize with itself in the bridge. Think Nick Drake, but with a sinister tone just beneath. 
cullenker01 (1).jpg
Lenker has written about her unique upbringing before: she was raised in a religious cult in Indianapolis until she was 4, then her parents nomadically travelled around the Midwest with her in a blue van (they lived in 14 different houses before Lenker was 8,) and eventually settled down in the suburbs of Minneapolis. This childhood has deeply informed Lenker’s songwriting: undaunted accounts of death, stark Midwestern imagery, and life-affirming aphorisms frequent the universes she creates. “Symbol” is no different, although you’ll have to have some patience with the dreamlike song as it grows on you. It wasn’t until the third or fourth listen that I began to understand the line: “Do you not do you not tell/That smile always makes me well/Do you see circling through?” It’s Lenker addressing us, the listeners, and asking if we realize the effect of smiling towards other people, for. Towards the end of the song, a gorgeous mesh of chopped-up vocal samples appear and are gone just as quickly, leaving the listener tantalized and begging for repeat listens.