Julien Baker
Turn Out The Lights



by musicallychallenged USER (35 Reviews)
October 27th, 2017 | 152 replies

Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: hope

"'cause Lord, Lord, Lord, is there some way to make it stop
'cause nothing that I do has ever helped to turn it off
and everything supposed to help me sleep at night
don't help me sleep at night, anymore"

I shift my head on my pillow again, listening to Sprained Ankle for the third time tonight. I haven’t been able to sleep lately. I try everything the therapist told me. I’m using “I want to” instead of “I should,” I self-affirm, my friendships and relationships are the best they’ve ever been, but the darkness still persists. I constantly live my life trying to get past it, but it’s gotten to the point where nothing I do really matters. I still have my episodes. I drift off uncomfortably, frowning, listening to Julien singing, “God, I wanna go home,” wondering if I’m broken. The pain of Sprained Ankle is dull, aching, and almost lethargic. It’s helped me a million times over to recognize that I’m not alone, soundtracked my painful nights, but it’s not exactly encouraging. Turn Out The Lights is the album that helped me wake up from that.

"Happiness is something where I imagine if I’m this successful, make this amount of money, drive this car, if I had a partner that loved me in this way, if I felt more physically attractive, then I’d be happy. But if those things were to be achieved, there’d be new deficits we’d continue to discover, until we realise that we are eternally chasing something that’s beyond us…Achievement or possessions may never make us happy, whereas I think joy is something that you can apply to your present circumstance. I try not to think, ‘If only I could stop having panic attacks I could be happy,’ because I might never – that’s a real possibility."

TOTL is the sound of someone who has done more than move on – it is the sound of someone who recognizes that she can’t. The slow guitar and dark lyrics of yesterday have not been abandoned, but expanded on. For those in enormous pain, realizing that someone is listening is perhaps the most important thing to help them become their best self. This is true for Julien as well as any of us. Her music, and, more importantly, her life has become fuller and more hopeful and meaningful. New voices are everywhere – from helping harmonies from past bands, to the piano and strings that gorgeously fill in the emptiness, to the newly expansive vocals from Julien herself. This album sounds big, grandiose, and yet never oversteps, always aware of just how much the small need lifting.

“…I thought, ‘This record’s just about me.’ But it’s not, and I’ve had to teach myself that. I can choose to shape the narrative. I could sit here and tell you all of the stories about all of the songs, and those are real stories that happened to me. But I could also just offer this thing I made into the universe and hope that people can inhabit the songs in whatever way that they need to. That they can feel less alone.”

She puts to words everything that we cannot say. Every track covers an important topic, flowing into each other. “Appointments,” the importance of hope in seemingly unbearable circumstances, “Turn Out The Lights,” the pain of being alone with yourself, “Shadowboxing,” self-hatred, and so on. It all rides out like a train of thought. More than that, though, she understands that she is the engineer, she has the power to veer off course or stall to a stop, but she always keeps going forward into the future. In this way, she helps us along the way, reminding us that life is more than our pain.

“‘Why am I me"’ Because from my perspective I am unhappy with my disposition or my temperament or the anxiety I experience, and I think something must be wrong with my brain, because this is abnormal and I need help trying to fix it. But articulating it in that way, saying that I’m broken and I need to be fixed, makes an assumption that there’s something wrong that needs to be reconciled. That’s in direct opposition with the belief that if I was made, instead of just coming into being haphazardly, that I could be made intentionally broken and so cosmically flawed that there was not a way to salvage those parts of myself. And I could not support that belief. I could not continue to think I was purposely created in the way that I am and that that is irrevocably a failure, I started to entertain the possibility that if one of these things is false, then what if the thing that’s false is that I’m broken. What if, in fact, that’s not a mistaken part of my identity that makes me the way I am but rather that’s just another part of me, period, something I can repurpose and transform to use in whatever way I can. What if the parts of myself, the ugly parts, the parts that we are told are ugly, are something that can be just as useful, if not the most useful and valuable, tools that we have in connecting with other people and becoming who we are.”

Like all the best art, TOTL lifts up, communicates with something bigger than itself. When she yells her final “I wanted to stay!” Julien is both talking to God once again and now moving on to more than just herself, but the people around her, and those she reaches through her music. While it does get better, it also gets worse. But when I listen to her, I hear her telling me that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. I hear her transcending ideologies, discovering the emo in Christianity and the religion in punk. I hear her, a person who kept going even when the harder she swam, the faster she sank. I hear a person who found beauty in terrifying panic, a person who gave back when everything she had was taken from her. There’s an ideology in music criticism that people can only make quality art when they are hurting, when they can’t see a way out, when they give up on life. Julien is certainly hurting, and is self-aware to know there might never be a way out, but she hasn’t given up on her music, on us, on God, and most importantly, not on herself.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
October 27th 2017


Album Rating: 5.0





Digging: Julien Baker - Turn Out The Lights

October 27th 2017


Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Oh hey new music.

October 27th 2017


Album Rating: 3.5

This was a bit disappointing first listen but some gold here.

October 27th 2017


Album Rating: 5.0

Beautiful shit dude, lovely review and album

October 27th 2017


I give her 2 more records before she is is spreading cheeks on the album cover a la St. Vincent.

October 27th 2017


Album Rating: 4.0

" I hear her transcending ideologies, discovering the emo in Christianity and the religion in punk"

excellent line, excellent album, excellent review, pos. Wouldn't be surprised if I 4.5 this after a couple more listens, the closer and Everything That Helps You Sleep are stunning.

October 27th 2017


Album Rating: 4.5

Today I felt the lowest I’ve ever been in my life. I’ve been very depressed this whole year and have tried to open up to people about it only to be shut down or have nobody understand what I’m going through by saying that I look happy, they don’t believe what they don’t see. I thought today would be the start of change in my life, I had a job interview lined up after 7 months of unemployment, I instigated a meet up with friends I haven’t seen in awhile, I had a date set up for the evening with someone who generally seemed interested in me...little did I think it would end with me writing this comment sat outside a train station by myself, listening to this album in the pouring rain. I thought Sprained Ankle was pretty good, but I didn’t feel the same way about it like others, maybe because I couldn’t really relate to the subject matter when it came out. Now I can.

I went to my interview only to be told they’d given the job to someone else (thanks for notifying me before I made the 2 hour trek), I had all my friends bail on me last minute saying things came up, my family gave me the “not mad just disappointed” speech and then started ranting and raving at me with their evangelical spiel about how my life is turning out this way because I won’t turn to God for help, then to top it all off I got stood up on my date. I know it’s not the end of the world and my life means very little in the grand scheme of things, and that’s generally the sentiment I’ve had this year to try and power through but things have only gotten worse and worse. The isolation, medication addiction, insomnia, loneliness, disconnect, self-loathing, lethargy - everything one could relate with depression all hit me at once on the bus home. I decided to just stay on it and I kept catching busses not knowing where I was going.

So when I listened to this album on my ride to nowhere it hit me like a freight train. The lyrics perfectly sum my situation up right now better than I ever could explain. Hearing “the harder I swim the faster I sink” had me tearing up around a bunch of people, thankfully the sun was shining directly in my eyes so it didn’t look out of place and I didn’t have to risk the embarrassment of having an emotional breakdown on public transport. Eventually after like 6 hours of bus rides I was running out of money and had to get off because the last train was about to depart back home. So here I am, at the train station in the pouring rain with this album on repeat.

Maybe it’s all gonna turn out alright, and I know that it’s not but I have to believe that it is.

Digging: Julien Baker - Turn Out The Lights

October 27th 2017


Drummerboy, I'm really sorry to hear that. Seriously, I can empathize. I'm glad you found an album to relate to during a time that you feel so alone. If you ever need to talk to someone and can't find anyone to listen, you can always shoot me a message or something.

I understand what it's like to deal with those sort of problems. I myself have been unemployed for a few months, and have addictions of my own, on top of the mental health issues. Luckily, I've had lots of people in my life that do everything they can to understand. I can't imagine where I would be right now if I didn't. Very possibly living in my truck, which I seriously considered for a period of time.

Anyway, I don't want to try to make this response all about myself, I just want you to know that there are people who understand and deal with these problems too. It's very important to have a community that you can turn to in times of extreme distress, so I'm always around.

Your life is important, no matter how hard that is to believe. And things can turn around very quickly. I hope they do for you. I appreciate your honest post. Do whatever you need to do to see tomorrow. And make every attempt you can to change your circumstances for the better.

October 27th 2017


Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

The most beautiful album that I've heard this year as well as one of my favorites this year. Amazing follow up Sprained Ankle, as expected.

Digging: Cannibal Corpse - Red Before Black

Contributing Reviewer
October 27th 2017


Album Rating: 4.0

god this is too much, i love you julien

October 27th 2017


Great review, especially the conclusion.

October 27th 2017


Album Rating: 4.5

Beautiful, beautiful review. Be well.

Digging: Julien Baker - Turn Out The Lights

October 27th 2017


Album Rating: 4.5

Pos. Lovely review.

Drummerboy - The only way is up! Keep smiling dude, good things will come

October 27th 2017


Album Rating: 4.5

beautiful review man, might try to give reviewing this a shit shot but this is absolutely incredible, hard pos man

October 27th 2017


Album Rating: 4.5

Such a gorgeous review. This album is growing on me more with each listen. "Sour Breath" "Happy to Be Here" and "Hurt Less" are some of the most gut-wrenching tracks of this year. And then there are moments like the piano in "Televangelist" and that final moment on "Claw In Your Back" that takes your breath away. I just love her.

Digging: Flotation Toy Warning - The Machine That Made Us

October 28th 2017


Album Rating: 4.5


Digging: Melvins - Stoner Witch

October 28th 2017


Album Rating: 4.5

This is a very strong 4.5 right now. "Even" is the only song that's keeping me from claiming it as a classic. It's not bad, but it is the weakest song she's written yet. If I were to bump it to five it'd be because of "Hurt Less." Goodness me, what a song.

October 28th 2017


Album Rating: 4.5

Interesting, I think Even is one of the best on here. Incredible vocal performance, and a compelling contrast to Hurt Less.

October 28th 2017


Album Rating: 4.5

Televangelist is the weakest song here for me and it's still pretty damn great

As for the reviewer, no idea who you are but this is an absolutely tremendous review, keep it up!!

Digging: Converge - The Dusk in Us

October 28th 2017


Album Rating: 4.5

I kind of wish 'Everything That Helps You Sleep' and 'Happy to be Here' would swap places, I think the former loses some of its potency following 'Televangelist'. That said, the two piano ballads have some of the album's best lyrics. "Hold out a flare until you come for me / Do I turn into light if I burn alive?"

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