On ‘Turn Out The Lights’, Julien Baker has created something magical

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On ‘Turn Out The Lights’, Julien Baker has created something magical


Julien Baker’s music is testament to this ­– while what you hear reveals heartbreaking moments in painstaking detail, the power of Baker’s writing transforms these circumstances into something extraordinary that outlives the pain.

Baker understands how confronting life at 21 feels, and doesn’t make any illusions to the crushing sadness that comes with this age in a world far less accepting than you’d hope for a queer female. Expanding upon the guitar-based arrangements of her debut album Sprained Ankle, Baker takes her sound to thrilling new heights.

Strings and piano open the album with the track ‘Over’, the ambience of ‘Appointments’ breathtaking and the piano on ‘Televangelist’stunning.Baker’s vocals are the strongest they’ve ever sounded, too, with tracks like ‘Shadowboxing’ made all the more incredible by her impassioned singing.

A particular highlight of the album is ‘Sour Breath’, which details the strain of giving something you’re all only to be let down, the repeated refrain of “The harder I swim, the faster I sink” delivered with immense anguish. ‘Hurts Less’hits the hardest emotionally, the visceral lyrics paving way for a sense of hope towards the end of the song as strings bring the track to a tear-inducing conclusion.

‘Happy to be Here’is markedly more upbeat instrumentally but there’s still critical self-evaluation coming through the lyrics, with Baker’s wish to rewire her brain cleverly paired with a desire to be an electrician.

Album closer ‘Claws In Your Back concludes with Baker’s voice soaring over the instrumentation – while there’s still a lot of suffering behind the lyrics, her delivery is triumphant, uplifting and most of all, unforgettable.

It’s almost easy to forget that Baker is so young given the maturity she possesses, but it’s clear that an incredible career awaits her based on the calibre of her first two releases. While Turn Out The Lights is a deeply personal album, a lot of the song’s lyrics are remarkably relatable. As Baker says herself, the power of using music to connect with people is perhaps the most healing thing of all, and this ability makes not only her music, but music in general, incredibly special.

Laying herself bare means we gain a meaningful insight into a fellow human’s life and much like everyone else, Baker experiences significant devastation and despair. Baker does something remarkable by turning this into something beautiful, and in doing so reminds her listeners that there’s so much in life worth cherishing.