Turn Out The Lights
Youthful Memphis artist Julien Baker does not write happy songs. Her hastily recorded debut from 2015 was a masterclass in vulnerability and the tribulations of relationships, and received all the plaudits it deserved. For her second album Turn Out The Lights, Baker takes things a step further both sonically and in her candid and confessional approach.
Baker returns to her most proficient instrument of piano, as keys play a far greater role in her music for this offering. Adding in some harmonies and strings layers each tune with far greater detail than her bare boned debut, without diluting her appeal. There is more meat on the bones of Turn Out The Lights which gives access to the damaged organs as well as the vulnerable skeleton that has been on show previously.
The themes that run through Turn Out The Lights aren’t for the faint hearted, as Baker delves further into her self doubt, her faith and a fragile mental health in general. Appointments is the boldest musical statement that Baker has made to date with arpeggiated guitar lines swirling around a tale of frustration and despair as the protagonist seeks help whilst surrounded by people who fail to understand.
On Sour Breath, the singer begins sedately with “I know you do better when you’re by yourself, free from the weight of my dirt poor health” before building to a crescendo of the line “the harder I swim the faster I sink” repeated until Baker reaches breaking point. Hurt Less is almost spritely in its delivery as Baker sings of the healing nature of people and connection as she deals with ever present internal conflicts.
Turn Out the Lights is everything that could be hoped for on Baker’s second album. She continues to be one of the strongest lyricists going around with a turn of phrase that would make Morrissey envious, and a voice that remains intimate as well as dynamic. The internal battle with hopelessness has never sounded so good.