Like a bear trap under autumn leaves, violence lurks beneath the surface of Adrianne Lenker’s music. That is particularly true of songs and instrumentals, a forthcoming pair of albums she recorded in April in a one-room cabin in Western Massachusetts, layering acoustic guitars on analog tape. Her melodies are so gorgeous, her voice so small and unassuming, it can be jarring to peer through the galaxy-like sweep of her fingerpicking and discover a glint of menace in her half-obscured lyrics.
As is often the case with Lenker’s songs, “anything” seems to be about a memory that won’t be buried yet refuses to reveal itself completely. Over an overdubbed shimmer of steel-string guitars, she thumbs through disjointed snapshots of seasons past. There’s a summer beach day, hazy with desire (“Skin still wet, still on my skin/Mango in your mouth, juice drippin’/Shoulder of your shirt sleeve slippin’”), and a Christmas eve with her lover’s family. But whatever happened here was not all good: That December memory unravels into grocery-store fights, a nasty dog bite, and a trip to the ER. And even that glance back at summer revelry feels ominous in the context of the song’s opening couplet: “Staring down the barrel of the hot sun/Shining with the sheen of a shotgun.”
But those fleeting glimpses of calamity disappear almost as soon as they flash out, while the song’s fragmentary verses lead to a chorus as unguarded and plain-spoken as anything Lenker has written. “I don’t wanna talk about anything/I don’t wanna talk about anything,” she sings; “I wanna kiss kiss your eyes again/Wanna witness your eyes lookin’.” Then she repeats a variation of the chorus’ opening line and concludes, “I wanna sleep in your car while you’re driving/Lay in your lap when I’m crying.” On the page, it might not look like much, but sung in Lenker’s high, lonesome voice, multi-tracked in quavering unison with herself, these lines are remarkable for their intimacy and vulnerability. For a song about distant and ambiguous memories, there’s something about “anything” that feels unusually alive. The way Lenker sings “kiss kiss your eyes again”—the subtle repetition, the unexpected pause at the end of the line—feels like she has taken the pulse of joy itself, capturing the cadence of a racing heart in a moment of stillness.