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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Trio of simple folk records released

A woman stands beside an old neon sign with some trees and a red pickup in the background. This image is the cover to Waxahatchee’s newest album “Tigers Blood,” one of three major indie-folk albums to release this week. (ANTI Records via AP)

If the 2020s can be classified as a big decade for one of the indie scenes, it has for indie folk. Rock-based indie bands dropped their Fenders and grabbed acoustic guitars, and the banjo is making more and more appearances.

Women are for the most part leading this charge. Whether it be boygenius’ first EP, Mitski’s most recent album or Taylor Swift’s turn to acoustic soundscapes on “Evermore” and “Folklore,” major hit-makers are moving toward the softer side.

Three big figures in the indie-folk scene released albums this week: Adrianne Lenker with “Bright Future,” Kacey Musgraves with “Deeper Well” and Waxahatchee with “Tigers Blood.” 


I have to be honest here. 

I’m a huge Big Thief fan, and I listen to the band’s music – along with much of lead singer Adrianne Lenker – nearly religiously. 

If this review sounds biased, well, that’s because it darn well may be. 

Simple and calm, full of space for Lenker’s basic act of existing to swell out of the track, “Bright Future” is on track to be my favorite album of the year. 

This album is so deeply personal that I feel like I shouldn’t be hearing it, or like, maybe, Lenker meant it just for me. 

“Evol” is a pretty standard folk ballad, but Lenker’s voice is so full of character that this simple dirge is transformed into a deeply affecting work of art.

“Candleflame” is as simple, but it emits a warmth that feels oddly similar to an embrace from someone whose hugs you remember but have not seen in a long time. 

While Big Thief’s version of “Vampire Empire” is certainly better, I find “Sadness As A Gift” to be one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. 

An ode to leaving something – or, perhaps, someone – behind, “Sadness As A Gift” has the ultimate gut-punch of a final line of “We could see the sadness as a gift and still / The seasons go so fast / Thinking that this one was gonna last / Maybe the question was too much to ask.”

An absolutely glorious piece of art, I cannot wait to listen to “Bright Future” as much as I humanly can from here on out. 


If you like the Netflix show “Virgin River,” boy, do I have the album for you. 

Kacey Musgraves’ newest album “Deeper Well” is the perfect pairing of canned backing tracks and slightly better-than-average songwriting. 

Reminiscent of the Muzak you’d overhear walking the aisles of Target, I expect TikTok to find this album to be absolutely perfect. 

Each song blends together and features an almost identical mix of instruments – a couple of vocal tracks, an acoustic guitar, soft drums, a quiet bass, and then one instrument that is funky, typically a slide guitar or some fun percussion.

Simply put, the album tries to be interesting in ways that aren’t interesting. 

Nothing on this album is downright bad nor is anything interesting in any way. It is abundantly mediocre. 

Simple and easy listening, I did always have a tapping foot while listening, but it isn’t enough to save the utter mediocrity of this album. 

I’d want to offer some standouts, but there really aren’t any. Everything is too similar and redundant when played with all of the other songs on this record. 

This record feels soulless, like it may fall over with the simplest gust of wind. 


As much as I listen to the indie scene, I must admit I had a little bit of a blank spot for Waxahatchee. 

Despite the album receiving an 8.8 score from Pitchfork, I couldn’t really connect with this album.

I found the instrumentals to be trite and simplistic – I keep returning to the word “simplistic.” Some songs need to be given the proper space and thus need a simple track to put their best foot forward, but for Waxahatchee, the simplicity is a fault. There’s nothing that makes her tracks stand out, nothing to make it worth listening to.

Very similar to Musgraves’ new album, there is not anything that stands out to me on this new Waxahatchee album. The album feels pretty uniform throughout, formulaic. Each song feels like the others. There is nothing distinct about any of them.

The lyrics are certainly written well, but the images Katie Crutchfield, Waxahatchee, focuses on aren’t all that interesting. 

Where Lenker looks at old wizards tapping bent canes, fretting about losing the things they used to have, Crutchfield talks about a “photograph of us / in a spotlight.” This brevity is sometimes a strong point, getting right into the core of her songs, but typically, it leaves me wanting more.

As much as I was hoping for this record to be good, it feels underdeveloped but is still an acceptable listen. 

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