Review Summary: Julien Baker.I feel empty, and yet I always return to your hymns of bitterness and desperation.
You seem to define the phrase “brilliance in simplicity,” as your sparse acoustic arrangements fill the air with an atmosphere of bleak, brutal honesty. Wispy, yet heavy. Dark, yet easily accessible. There’s something paradoxical in your tone, as hopeful melodies are beaten down by the self-deprecation and realism in your lyrical vulnerability. You’re inspired by God, and your pieces cut through bullshit and excessive drama. Sprained Ankle
is a universal experience, there for anyone to relate to in their darkest and most troubled moments. Your works are not abrasive or overbearing in the slightest, resorting to instrumental minimalism to get each message across; yet you are not shallow. Each lyrical wound runs deep as it dances on guitar strings swathed in reverb, building intimate experiences both draining and sobering. This is fucking real.
You are Julien Baker, pure and distilled.
Julien Baker is fucking real. I’m not trying to claim I know her personally, but in her solemn reflections of everyday life and faith, I can’t interpret Sprained Ankle
as anything other than the real artist behind the music. The smoke and mirrors aren’t there, and no overproduction masks Baker’s simultaneous flaws and impact. Just listen to the ending of “Rejoice” for the full extent of this, as the singer-songwriter stretches her voice beyond her normal limits for one of the most deeply emotional climaxes in recent memory. Her guitar playing is almost shockingly simple at times, but it’s overwhelmingly soulful and earnest; the dreamlike echoes of each ringing melody and chord simply add another layer of meaning. The artist really seems to tap into something that I’m sure many of us have experienced: crisis. Crises are discussed in detail, ones of death, drug abuse, faith, and depression. Each song presents itself as another in a laundry list of conflicts that Baker chooses to face head-on, each in different musical contexts. And yet, regardless of how much she decides to spill her guts on each tricky topic, there’s an atmosphere of perseverance that always remains in Sprained Ankle
. I’m not sure if it’s because there are some pretty cheery musical arrangements (most of the music being in major keys, no less) or because of Baker’s incredible level of passion and conviction, but there’s something intensely hopeful within the music. Maybe it’s in how relatable it all is. This is an amazing collection of songs for any of us who have wrestled with internal issues we’ve tried to eradicate for years. That may be faith, adjustment, drugs, or whatever you see it as. But one thing’s for sure: Julien Baker is sincere and knows the intense struggles that can come from being human.
I feel human, and I always return to her hymns of struggle and reality.