Twenty years old, still a student and my God, what a songwriter and singer. Julien Baker of Memphis, Tennessee unleashes her solo debut album, Sprained Ankle, and this is one that will turn your head immediately, make you sit up, take notice and LISTEN CLOSELY.
Stark and stripped down with just her guitar playing and vocals, it’s ethereal and warm and lovely; the melodies are sweetly soothing and refined in their simplicity. But her lyrics are a complete contrast to the music – songs of pain; addiction; spirituality and questioning – totally from the heart and drawn from her own experiences – this is an old soul with a life lived, it seems, several times. And yet – she’s only 20 years old.
One of the most desolate tracks that grips you is “Brittle Boned”; her voice is other worldly and angelic; her harmonies chill-inducing as the song builds up with light drum thumps and a climax of softly strummed guitars. “Everybody Does” is an acoustic track that features her vocal gymnastics and shifts from slow to driving and the lyrics are powerful (“…you’re gonna run when you find out who I am…”) and her double tracked voice gives added impact; the milky guitar of “Something” and upfront vocals are beautifully framed by her harmonies and what sounds like a backwards loop and “Vessels” is simply gorgeous – the fluidity of the guitar intro; the “distant” feel of her singing; the Velvet Underground type drum and a simple but emotive guitar solo.
As the year draws to a close, this is one of those albums that comes out of nowhere and immediately takes its place in your imagination. I have this feeling that the talents of Julien Baker will begin to be noticed soon. Hopefully by all. She and this album are a revelation.
Sprained Ankle is available now