Julien Baker

Turn Out the Lights

Matador

Oct 25, 2017 Issue #62 - Julien Baker Bookmark and Share


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"Is that what you want? For me to be miserable like you?," Julien Baker sings accusingly on "Even." Unlike the morose and heartfelt debut Sprained Ankle, Baker's follow-up album treads the line of hard resolve, outwardly and internally, more than compromising sadness. But that doesn't mean Baker's knack for targeting her, and our, inadequacies with marksman-like precision has faltered. Case and point, "Hurt Less" is a chilling track that centres around Baker's lifestyle choice in not wearing a seatbelt. She thinks, who cares if I die? What does it matter to anyone? The soft piano and string sections flitter tenderly as the song progresses as Baker works through a thorough self-analysis. By track's end, Baker admits "this year I started wearing safety belts because when I'm with you I don't have to think about myself." Friends, those we love, they are what makes living worth the pain, even when we are at our most self-hating.

This theme is concurrent through Turn Out the Lights, woven into an omnipresent fear of death without baiting any suicidal references. Mental health issues and feelings of helplessness are dissected and addressed autobiographical and responsibly. The way Baker phrases her lyrics as rational and witty rips the stigma and taboo right off. "Happy to Be Here" features a great line with Baker saying she wants to be an electrician to "climb inside my ears and rearrange the wires in my brain." The song is written from the perspective of "Different Me"; an amazing way of documenting insecurity that's vivid and reminiscent of thoughts we've all had but maybe can't articulate.

Turn Out the Lights will find relevancy as long as there are people with ears and feelings. It prioritizes and gives weight to our everyday struggles with our own mortality, confidence, and self-worth. Baker is writing faultless songs that will always have a home in our hearts because finding comfort in even the saddest moments means we're still feeling. And if we're feeling, there's hope for us yet. (www.julienbaker.com)

Author rating: 9/10

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