Allison Lorenzen explores turning heartbreak into triumph on her latest album, Tender, which will be released November 19. Making the album was “essentially a process of alchemy,” she explains, and the final product is an accumulation of emotions, lyrics and music turned into a sonic landscape lush with imagery.
The word "tender" has many meanings, she continues, and the album reflects those layers of sentiment as Lorenzen navigates the highs and lows of loss and reconciliation. Tender is also full of firsts for the Denver-based artist: It’s her first solo album that is also full-length and self-recorded. Its release will be followed by a December 4 show at Fort Greene Bar, 321 East 45th Avenue, with an opening act by Bluebook and special guest performers.
Creating Tender was a process of experiencing the depths of heartache and learning to connect with her own strength, Lorenzen says. It's about "moving through those feelings to a place of peace and acceptance and then realizing that those feelings — that situation, that person — no longer have the weight they once had,” she continues.
Lorenzen started performing music in 2012 as one half of School Dance, a Philadelphia-based dark-wave duo. The other half was Lorenzen’s then-partner, Sam Tremble. But after they ended both their musical collaboration and romance in 2017, Lorenzen stepped away from creating music for over a year.
“I needed some time to extract myself, in a way, to do some healing,” she explains.
Madeline Johnston of Midwife, who’s known for her self-described heaven-metal sound, helped propel Lorenzen back on stage in 2019. They’d become friends over the years through playing shows, and Johnson encouraged Lorenzen to work on her solo material. In early 2020, the pair collaborated on “Vale,” a dark, dream-pop reflection of facing internal shadows. The song was the first single to be released from Tender in January 2021.
“Vale” set a tone that inspired Lorenzen to try her hand at self-recording and producing. “I had a couple of different friends walk me through some basic recording concepts,” she says. Lorenzen "did a lot of research," but learning to record was still a process of “facing small fears and walking through them,” she continues.
Lorenzen never studied music as an academic discipline. Instead, she spent years learning about music through dance. She started dancing when she was five and went on to study dance performance and choreography at a small Midwestern liberal arts college. After graduating, she co-created a dance company in Philadelphia and later performed in a collective called Live Art Installations in Denmark and Germany.
Her knowledge of choreography laid a foundation for understanding dynamic movement within compositions. But composing music is a different experience for Lorenzen. She finds freedom in the work, as it allows listeners “to have their own experience and relationship to a song,” she explains.
“Chalk,” one of Lorenzen’s favorite songs on the album, is best characterized as a series of images connected “by virtue of proximity," she says.
The song begins with the words, “I’ll chalk it up to the hole in the yard” — a scene that could be interpreted as depicting a grave, Lorenzen points out. But to her, it reflects a sense of low-grade chaos and uncertainty. Next, she sings of how she “dreamt of a hand warm to the touch," while the bridge of the song asks for a second chance.
Instead, the narrative is illustrated by juxtapositions of light and dark sounds — subtle beating percussion and rising harmonies, fuzzy guitar and synth speckled with the movement of keys. Lorenzen has described it as music that moves like “worried smoke against a low cloud ceiling."
“Backwards,” the sixth song on the album, features radiating vocals and soft synth crescendos outlined with dissonance. It reflects the non-linear process of healing, Lorenzen explains.
“Backwards” was recently used in October as the soundtrack in a music video for SLOWDANCES, a research project that began in 2019 and explores how altered states of speed affect relationships between people, bodies and landscapes. The video was choreographed and performed by Hana Erdman, Louise Dahl and Ulrika Berg — friends Lorenzen made while dancing in Europe.
Lorenzen also takes a slow approach with her music, though that isn’t intentional. “It’s not slow for slowness’s sake,” she explains. “They’re the tempos that the songs needed to be. But it could be a process of my own internal rhythm and tempo, and I welcome and embrace that.”
As Lorenzen slowly leads listeners into the abstraction of her creation, she hopes the lack of definition engenders inclusion, or prompts something “somewhat universal that maybe others can tap into and find some strength for themselves,” she says.
To learn more about Allison Lorenzen or buy tickets for her December 4 release show , visit her website or social media. The show will begin at 7 p.m. with an opening act by Bluebook. Tender will be available on Spotify or Bandcamp on November 19.