Unsurprisingly, this was a year where I was a little more prone to sad bastard music. Not because I necessarily found it good to wallow in some sort of depressive state. But more because, not unlike the feeling of listening to Vince Guaraldi around Christmas time, sometimes you need some contended “sad time”, and to remind yourself that music is a place where indulging life’s more morose feelings can be a source of comfort. Granted, it’s a little hard to pin down what Julien Baker, a supremely talented 22-year-old, would have to be sad about, but she sure has a way of expressing it in a very pure way.
As I sort of hinted at, I was first turned on to Julien Baker earlier this year, not because I hadn’t heard of her (I believe our contributor Sean Lemme is a fan), but more of just a need for something quiet. There was a lot of noise in 2017, and an album like Baker’s 2015 release Sprained Ankle certainly fit that bill. And even though her music tends to be pretty spare, its always filled up by the vulnerability in her vocals and the soft precision of her guitar work, which is as serene as any electric guitar-playing this side of Jeff Buckley.
I wouldn’t say Turn Out The Lights is a full leap forward into something else, but it doesn’t really need to be. There’s a bit more piano this time around. But other than that, Baker’s lyrics – that often describe a kind of uncomfortableness with living in your own skin – coupled with her vocals, is the kind of earnestness that never goes out of style. I’m sure much of her restlessness has to do with her being both queer and a devout Christian, but it often tends to bug me when music writers delve too much into an artist’s personal life when trying to explain their music. So I’ll just say, this music is sad and simple and lovely. And put simply… there’s nothing sad about that.
Favorite Tracks: “Turn Out The Lights”, “Happy To Be Here”, “Hurt Less”