Review Summary: “Maybe it's all gonna turn out all right / Oh, I know that it's not, but I have to believe that it is”
What can be said about Julien Baker that has not already been said? The young singer/songwriter has seen a meteoric rise since 6131 Records discovered her debut album on band camp and rereleased it. With two years of relative fame and a new record label, it would not be unfathomable to believe Baker might start to crack under the pressure. Nothing could be further from the case, as with Turn out the Lights
Julien improves upon nearly every aspect of her raw and personal songwriting.
On first listen Turn out the Lights
is nearly flawless; each track has a similar tone and similar delivery, yet are markedly different. There seems to be a maturity in the songwriting not present on Sprained Ankle, as the lyrics are more restrained, yet just as hauntingly devastating. The album flows effortlessly between tracks, at times feeling like one monstrous track, plodding its way through depression and self-loathing. This approach, while seemingly daunting to listeners, proves itself effective through immersive emoting.
The album begins not with a bang, but with a subdued, ominous, and haunting string-based intro track that flows seamlessly into album single (and highlight) “Appointments”. This track is quintessential Baker; minimalistic instrumentation coupled with gut wrenching lyrics and with a familiarly melancholic delivery.
Nowhere is Baker’s penchant for quality minimalistic song writing present than in the album’s shortest full track “Sour Breath”. The song is as structured as simply as the rest, yet the track build and builds until the last refrain is repeated over and over, until everything drops out but Baker’s voice. While this idea is nowhere near novel, it is executed to perfection, as the “The harder I swim the faster I sink” will echo through your mind for the rest of your day.
Album closer “Claws in your Back” is without a doubt Baker at her best; this track is arguably her greatest achievement thus far in her young career. Brooding and heavy, this track ebbs and flows its way through familiar ground lyrically before Julien’s most emphatic declaration that she’s’ “changed her mind/ [she] wanted to stay”, a perfect ending to a continuously overwhelming saga.
So maybe you’ve heard this
album before. Maybe this familiar ground has you weary. Regardless, this album is as raw, personal, and inspiring as anything around. With Turn out the Lights
Baker has once again proven that she has what it takes to be mainstay in a genre that often burns out as quickly as it begins.