Release Date: Oct 27, 2017
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
When Julien Baker released Sprained Ankle, its sparse arrangements and unflinching look at substance abuse, depression and faith made it one of the most cathartic listens in years. Turn Out the Lights digs deeper, exploring her pain in ever more empathetic ways and expanding her musical palette to match. These songs are subtle and focus on Baker's voice and guitar/piano playing.
Good critical writing is about balance. Too invested or partisan and you're frivolous; too obdurately austere and you're tedious. Beyond an aptitude for aligning Big Words to compose meaning, critical writing is challenging because that balance between substantive analysis and emotional petition is a precariously lean wire; but when it's realised, such equilibrium is edifying, entertaining, instinctively satisfying.
WHAT'S DIFFERENT: Julien Baker's second solo effort is as devastating as her much-lauded 2015 debut, Sprained Ankle, but nowhere near as hopeless. Before, it was easy to see Baker's vulnerability as childlike, but Turn Out The Lights proves she's had enough pain to last several lifetimes. There's an elegance to her music that wasn't there before—a sudden bright piano riff over deep guitar; a harrowing, shouted acapella—that feels like a coming of age.
"Is that what you want? For me to be miserable like you?," Julien Baker sings accusingly on "Even." Unlike the morose and heartfelt debut Sprained Ankle, Baker's follow-up album treads the line of hard resolve, outwardly and internally, more than compromising sadness. But that doesn't mean Baker's knack for targeting her, and our, inadequacies with marksman-like precision has faltered. Case and point, "Hurt Less" is a chilling track that centres around Baker's lifestyle choice in not wearing a seatbelt.
Julien Baker's debut album, 2015's Sprained Ankle, was a bolt of lightning from out of nowhere, zapped down from heaven directly into a bottle bobbing in a vast and lonely ocean. Recorded during Baker's freshman year in college, it's a stark meditation on heartbreak, insecurity, loneliness, addiction and faith, built almost entirely out of gently plucked acoustic guitar and one particularly stirring human voice. Sprained Ankle is quietly intense, devastatingly sad and stunningly beautiful.
No one is more critical of Julien Baker than herself. Throughout Turn Out the Lights, her groundbreaking second album, and first for Matador Records, she refers to herself as a masochist, a hypocrite, a jumble of faulty circuitry resulting from a flawed design. A blistering examination of depression and self-doubt, her album displays just how exhausting it can be to find even semblances of hope when feeling drowned by anxieties.
On "Claws in Your Back," the last song on her second record Turn Out the Lights, Julien Baker pulls out the stopper from all the tension that's mounted in her solo music to date. The Tennessee songwriter's first album on Matador wrestles with many of the same demons that populated her chilling debut Sprained Ankle in 2015. In her cracked but steady voice, a voice trained on pop-punk in her band Forrister and later subdued to spare, acoustic rock, Baker appeals to God.
You know someone's immediately hit a nerve when demand for their first album results in an amount of pressings to bring completists out in hives, as happened with singer-songwriter Julien Baker's intimate 2015 debut, Sprained Ankle. Tellingly, if you're after the white vinyl first pressing, you'd do well to track it down for less than a three-figure sum. That debut was a vulnerable, sombre affair; the type that ends up feeling very personal to those who fall for it.
In light of the year's biggest indie rock release suffering at the hands of critics for its perceived cynicism, what are we to make of a record as painfully straight-up as Julien Baker's Turn Out the Lights? How do we even begin to approach such yelping, unkempt, wide-eyed sincerity within the framework of scoring system? What critical apparatus does one employ to address the work of an artist whose blood, sweat and tears come pre-splashed across the record, watermarked lest some unintended recipient ripped into them? Is this what we really wanted? To an extent, your enjoyment of the record will hinge on your capacity for pure, irony-deficient ballads, because that's all that's presented here. Mine is high. Perhaps you have fond memories of racing through a parent's record collection, or watching them drop the needle on their favourites, introducing you at an early age to Dylan, Zappa, Hendrix, Marley, the Stones.
This is at its most intense when she raises her voice on songs such as "Sour Breath", where the contrast with the more subtle vocals throughout her striking new album Turn out the Lights, including the harmonies on the stand out "Appointments", creates something truly magical. Along with her voice, there's the same sparse, echoing guitar as on her first album, Sprained Ankle, but there are added strings on some of the songs, which, despite their subtlety, add even more to the emotional intensity. Baker also plays piano on the instrumental opener "Over" and "Televangelist"; welcome additions to her palette that don't overshadow the beautiful combination of restrained guitar and voice that was so moving on her first record.
S prained Ankle, Julien Baker's initially self-released 2015 debut, gained critical acclaim for its painstaking, delicate and melancholy depiction of her mental health. When the Memphis singer-songwriter came out to her parents aged 17, her father scoured the Bible for chapters on acceptance. These highly personal songs again explore her sexuality, Christianity, self-doubt and isolation.
When Julien Baker sings, rooms go quiet. Floating above simple compositions, her voice is raw, emotive, sometimes shaky but always strong. It’s vibrant and authentic, and wise beyond its years. It’s one of the most important young voices in music today. In some ways, Baker is just the ….
Turn Out the Lights, Julien Baker's second solo album and Matador Records debut, marks her formal entry as a boldface name in the indie rock world. She catapulted here on the strength of her self-released 2015 debut, Sprained Ankle, nine songs that spawned a devoted fanbase and, in the twinkling title track, a contemporary classic. With spare, solo guitar and unfailing honesty, Baker grappled with enormous subjects of God, pain, and death.
Julien Baker has been on my radar for about a year now after I heard her on Touche Amore's last record via "Skyscraper." I did some research and what I found was a young songstress ready to bring her Memphis woe to the fore and expose her heart and very soul. Turn Out The Lights accomplishes just that, teaching us that it's okay to hurt and heal, and more specifically, to believe in said light. It's also a great evolution and a mark of maturity from her 2015 debut Sprained Ankle. Baker waxes poetic on so many things here -- family, friends and relationships.
Julian of Norwich wrote that "all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." Julien Baker wants you to know it's OK if all is not well. On her second album, "Turn Out the Lights," out Friday on Matador Records, the Memphis native's candid ballads unravel the impact of mental health and pain on personal relationships: with family, with lovers, with friends, with God. Aching, vulnerable, and unsparing in detail, her creations invite you to listen with your whole self and feel along.
That deep hole that Memphis singer-songwriter Julien Baker started to dig when she was still a teenager on her 2015 solo debut, "Sprained Ankle"? It gets wider and deeper on "Turn Out the Lights" (Matador), an album that turns its predecessor's intimacy into something far more ambitious. Though the record is still basically the work of a one-woman band, centered on Baker's voice and guitar, it widens the production scope. String arrangements, some reed instruments, multitracked vocals and Baker's piano give the music a chamber-pop veneer, which allows for a greater dynamic range.
Now aged 21, Julien Baker has already made somewhat of a name for herself in indie folk circles following the success of her full-length debut 'Sprained Ankle' aged 18. 'Turn Out The Lights' sees much of the same as Baker's trademark twinkling guitar and haunting vocals are apparent from album opener 'Appointments', a confessional and intimate folk ballad. There's a distinct ethereal quality to Baker's vocals and delicately plucked minor guitar chords that help to paint a raw and intimate portrait of young love and adolescence.
Her Matador Records debut, Turn Out the Lights is the much-anticipated follow-up to the ruminating 2015 breakthrough of Tennessee singer/songwriter Julien Baker. While Sprained Ankle was recorded in a professional studio in Richmond, Virginia, it was with help from a friend who was interning there, and Baker, an 18-year-old college freshman at the time, was the sole performer. Unexpectedly -- to the songwriter -- it was picked up by 6131 Records and eventually made Billboard's Heatseekers Albums chart in 2016.