A year after cementing her name as a musical tour-de-force and winning the world over with her Tiny Desk performance, Julien Baker
has released her second full-length album, entitled Turn Out The Lights
Though Baker is only 22 years old, calling her precocious or a prodigy doesn't seem appropriate. The depth of soulful introspection and maturity displayed in 2015's Sprained Ankle
is here again in her newest album, with somehow an even greater degree of vulnerability and intimacy. Baker is not simply talented for her age, she is the preeminent singer-songwriter of our time.
Baker has quickly become a fan favorite in the emo scene, due to her immensely personal lyrics dealing with issues ranging from depression to addiction on tracks like "Sour Breath". Additionally, her typically demure vocals bely a greater power beneath, one which intermittently explodes with a frenetic need to declare, to assert, and confess—without regard to who sees—that which we typically keep bottled up inside. In the era of emo-revival that idolizes the pseudo-sad boy who sings himself hoarse over the same three acoustic tracks, Baker's songwriting is a head above in production and expressions of sincerity.
Yet Turn Out The Lights
plays out sounding like so much more than a diary entry. In a recent interview The New York Times,
Baker states that she draws inspiration from hymns because, "despite being antiquated modes of worship—maybe—they contain these really emotive phrases. All my favorite hymns are admissions of faults, and finding redemption even in those." In the face of the tremendous weight of the soul carried in these songs, Baker's voice, at times soft and at times teetering on cracking from strain like in "Shadowboxing", sings like a hallelujah. On an album that deals with such heavy issues, Baker uses these tracks not as a manner of mourning, but as a near-religious catharsis. Turn Out The Lights
is similarly stripped back like Sprained Ankle
, with only simple guitar and piano pieces to accompany Baker, who traces her way through the album on the strength of her lyricism. "Happy To Be Here" features only Baker and her guitar, yet the highs achieved in her singing outshine whatever could be achieved with additional instrumentation.
Turn Out The Lights
is most definitely a somber affair, yet it never falls victim to itself. In embracing the many demons she finds throughout the album, Baker exorcises them and inspires hope in places one might not expect to find it.