Sophomore full length from Memphis, TN based singer/songwriter Julien Baker. Two years after making her debut on 6131 she has been snapped up by Matador, and Turn Out The Light develops her delicate, intimate and vulnerable songwriting further. Life, down on record, through gorgeous Buckley esque guitar, piano and vocals.
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Julien Baker played her last album, ‘Sprained Ankle’, with an aimless intensity. Largely solo and sombre, the record’s guitarwork would hasten or wander, moving in directions that felt contra to Baker’s wonderfully linear and plainspoken songs. A record largely about loneliness, connectivity and the ambiguous gaps in between, it offered little more than an assured songwriter meditating on her losses and then hitting with them hard. Perfect, right?
I’m excited as much as I am daunted by ‘Turn Out the Lights’, another record which promises a stern look into the mixed loves of faith and romance. It opens on a serene and sorrowful dance of piano and strings before crystalline post-rock guitar ushers in “Appointments” -- that she’s using an overture on this record, and one of such devastating effect, should prove her self-awareness in the midst of all this heavy lifting. She opens lyrical proceedings with a topic sentence on being alone: “I’m staying home, tonight”, she sings over guitar that twinkles with some strand of hope. From there the song does what Baker does best: it wanders like a tone poem until she pushes it into a climactic finale.
She’s really, really good at those. It never feels too big or overdone, because she wanders over to the moment so slowly. And on this record, the build comes vertically too: the textures are a plus. The guitars shimmer a little more to the side. The production ripples with nervous energy. The environment offers something quite amazing and the newly crafted arrangements within erupt: basically what I’m saying is listen to “Shadowboxing”, it’s absolutely amazing.
I’ve reached word count here talking about half of the things I wanted to, but all the usual caveats apply: tread carefully into this immense record, be still your heart, etc. I’m just gonna say “real brill songwriting!” in my chirpiest voice to brighten the mood.
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