Adrianne Lenker Credit: Genesis Baez

Adrianne Lenker was in the throes of a breakup this spring when she holed up in a one-room cabin in Western Massachusetts and spent a few weeks crafting the paired albums Songs and Instrumentals (both on 4AD). While Lenker is primarily known for her folk-rock band Big Thief, her comparatively pared-down solo work is equally striking. Her guitar playing is intimate, her light, soft voice is comforting, and her music exudes a mystical quality—it sounds ready-made to be played during early-morning strolls through the fog. Songs is warm, inviting folk music; every loping melody and patient strum creates rhythms to cradle you. But a constant tension underlies everything, unrelieved by any triumphant catharsis: “Two Reverse” contrasts winding guitar figures with anxious upstrokes, “Heavy Focus” creates a quiet intensity with its constant punctuation of fingers squeaking along strings, and “Not a Lot, Just Forever” aches with a sadness primarily felt in the quick pace of Lenker’s fingerpicking. This balance between relief and restlessness suggests that Lenker doesn’t mean these songs to be Lethean; she’s trudging through the hard and arduous process of healing. And on Instrumentals, it sounds like she’s found it. On the 21-minute “Music for Indigo,” Lenker stitches together multiple guitar passages while the natural sounds surrounding her cabin—birdsong, wind, the creaking of wood—come through loud and clear. Though Songs also uses such environmental sounds, their relative prominence on Instrumentals allows for lush, meditative repose. The following track, the sparser and slightly shorter “Mostly Chimes,” is little more than an unadorned field recording by the time it ends. The sound of someone walking around concludes this double LP and signals a newfound contentment: Lenker can leave the cabin and face the world. She may be moving slowly and carefully for now, but she’s definitely moving forward.   v