Julien Baker
Funeral Pyre / Distant Solar Systems


4.2
excellent

Review

by Sunnyvale STAFF
June 17th, 2023 | 12 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The hidden gem of Julien Baker’s discography

Until this week, I’d only heard Julien Baker’s three full-length albums. All three are quite good, although Sprained Ankle is the only one I’d say reaches true excellence. In short, Baker’s always been one of those artists which I don’t quite “get”, with my assessment of her music falling far short of the accolades of her devoted fanbase. With that said, I was blown away by Funeral Pyre/Distant Solar Systems, a pair of tunes released in 2017 as a single (or an EP, per Sputnik). Without hyperbole, both songs are among Baker’s finest handiwork, and they fit together like peanut butter and jelly.

Slowcore has often been offered as a reference point for Baker’s music, but most of the time it’s a more distant influence rather than a fundamental building block. For “Funeral Pyre” and “Distant Solar Systems”, though, that genre is far more prevalent than usual, with its compelling fusion of minimalistic restraint and emotional heaviness as the guiding principle of both songs. The arrangements are delicate, Baker’s vocals are more heart-wrenchingly vulnerable than ever, and the songs move at a measured pace, burning out steadily, without urgency but utterly enveloping. "Funeral Pyre” is sparse and bleak, the lonely strums of the guitar supplementing Baker’s plaintive singing, before a chiming outro brings about a sense of overwhelming catharsis. “Distant Solar Systems” doubles down, plodding along in the best way, as well as providing what is arguably the finest lyric sheet in Baker’s discography. There are certain songs which just demand your undivided attention while they’re playing, and both of these tracks fall into that potent category - the ethereal slowcore folk which Baker revels in here is simply too beautiful.

In a way, it’s sad that what I’d confidently call Baker’s finest work yet is not only such a concise release (less than ten minutes total), but also in the type of obscure format which most casual fans will pass by without a second glance. Word to the wise: delve into Baker’s three LPs, sure, but don’t forget to give Funeral Pyre/Distant Solar Systems a spin (or ten). In fact, make that last item a priority.



Recent reviews by this author
Mark Knopfler One Deep RiverHamferd Men Gu​ð​s Hond Er Sterk
Hawkwind Stories from Time and SpaceRide Interplay
Francis of Delirium LighthouseVerwoed The Mother
user ratings (7)
4.2
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
June 17th 2023


5819 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

This release arguably doesn’t belong in Sputnik’s database since it’s not really an EP, but given these two songs aren’t attached to another release and its ten minute runtime does match that of some EPs, I think it’s fair game.



Anyways, both of these songs are killer and I’d recommend checking these ASAP if you like Julien Baker at all and haven’t heard them.



Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
June 17th 2023


5819 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Also, note that this isn't a new release (2017) - surprised it's appearing up in the main staff section!

AsleepInTheBack
Staff Reviewer
June 17th 2023


10011 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

pos



i have not heard this wat

Trebor.
Emeritus
June 17th 2023


59808 Comments


Thought we couldn't do singles

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
June 17th 2023


60177 Comments


definitely do singles, don't know if (or why) anyone ever took that rule seriously

Snake.
June 19th 2023


25235 Comments


funeral pyre is her best song

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
June 19th 2023


47575 Comments


Funeral Pyre is insanely good and it's somehow a Sprained Ankle outtake (?) julien wyd

on a related note Sunny I'm hoping you've heard Red Door (actually her best song)

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
June 19th 2023


5819 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

@Rowan, yeah, I first heard Red Door/Conversation Piece this week as well. Both great songs, although that pair didn't leave quite the impression that this one did.

Cormano
June 20th 2023


4059 Comments


wouldn't call it hidden but a gem indeed

don't think it was an outtake either, song was in early stages when she went to record SA, by the time she got signed and the record was reissued in 2016 she had been including it in her sets as "sad song #11"

AmericanFlagAsh
June 20th 2023


13193 Comments


Distant Solar Systems is so good

neekafat
Staff Reviewer
June 21st 2023


26031 Comments


singles are fine if its more than one song (?) (??)

neekafat
Staff Reviewer
June 21st 2023


26031 Comments


regardless yeah this is a classic



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2023 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy