Simply put, Julien Baker has a way of constructing songs that hit you right in the gut. The Memphis singer/songwriter returns with new album, Turn Out The Lights, bringing more of that emotional lyrical punch and haunting guitar work that made her debut, 2015’s Sprained Ankle, such a special piece of work.
Her ability to communicate such honest emotion, as she so beautifully displayed on that debut record, is still equally as strong here; songs pull at heart strings and remind you how delicate relationships and people can be. However, if Sprained Ankle was the breakup, Turn Out The Lights is the healing stage. As you listen to the record you can catch moments of healing and catharsis through the obvious pain. Yet, Baker doesn’t sugar coat her experiences, positive or negative. This record feels as if the wounds are healing. Although still visible, and still tender, there’s a sense of closure and healing.
We get a full spectrum of this recovery through the tracks ‘Sour Breath’, ‘Everything To Help You Sleep’ and ‘Shadowboxing’; from the initial broken relationship, to the cure for which may never be obtained, to the feeling you’ll never completely understand what’s going on. Turn Out The Lights gives you a realistic viewpoint on suffering. Themes like this can rip you to the core, yet she allows the light to shine though, even just a little; “Maybe it’s all gonna turn out all right/Oh, I know that it’s not, but I have to believe that it is” she sings on, ‘Appointments’, giving a small sense of reassurance.
Musically, Baker is able to create a beautiful landscapes of sound with more instrumental sections, making for slightly longer tracks. Tracks like ‘Claws In Your Back’, ‘Televangelist’, and the aforementioned ‘Appointments’ are over four minutes, almost five. Yet nothing feels unnecessary. With the additional length of the tracks, Baker is able to simply show more of what she can do.
‘Hurt Less’, ‘Everything That Helps You Sleep’, and the opening track ‘Over’ (which beautifully transitions into “Appointments”) show off her talent on the piano. With this classical sound, she is able to evoke a more sombre feel to the tracks, in comparison to the foot tapping, head bobbing guitar sound. A mix of these two elements allows a calmer and more sentimental response to already emotionally driven songs. And herein lies the reason why Julien Baker is getting the attention she deserves; with impressive action, Baker creates an environment in her music that is honest, relatable and shows both sides (positive and negative) without a veil. The result is a work of art to which our vulnerable sides can connect to; safe in the knowledge that, although these experiences hurt, there is an end in sight, however unlikely it may seem.
Turn Out The Lights is out on Friday October 27th via Matador Records.