Julien Baker - Little Oblivions: A raw, honoring view of struggle
Album: Little Oblivions
Artist: Julien Baker
Genre: #alternative #indie #folk
Sub-Genres: #neofolk #folkrock #rootsrock #indiefolk
Label: Matador Records
Non-Airable Tracks: none
Julien Baker released her third album Little Oblivions on February 26th, 2021. In an interview with Chris Deville from Stereogum, Baker talked individually about each track on the album.
The album opens with a single, “Hardline”. The opening notes have a tone and pitch that reminded me of Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode”, surprisingly. Baker said this song was moved to the opening track as a way to throw the listener in to the deep end, so to speak, of the album’s content. In the lyrics, Baker details her more recent experiences struggling with substance abuse with poetic and introspective lines such as the first lines of the whole album: “Blacked out on a week day, is there something I’m trying to avoid?”.
Throughout the rest of the album, themes of substance abuse and sobriety and mental health struggles are presented in a way that honors those topics interspersed with religious imagery and language, speaking to Baker's relationship with religion. The most stand-out example of this is in “Faith Healer”. The opening lines talk about struggling with new sobriety, and searching for relief by begging “Faith healer, come put your hands on me”. Then, in “Relative Fiction”, Baker penned “’Cause I don’t need a savior” and “I’ve got no business praying, I’m finished being good” and in Zip Tie, a Bible story and crucifixion are referenced.
Although the main themes of the album are darker, the music and lyrical phrasing creates a sense of beauty in the struggle without romanticizing it. Baker herself said she doesn’t write about her experiences for pity, but as a catharsis and release of her feelings surrounding her experiences. As dark as some of the lyrics are, a few tracks pair them with slightly more upbeat music arrangement, and in a way, it recontextualizes the subject matter, such as in “Faith Healer”, “Repeat”, and “Relative Fiction”. Baker also included Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus on “Favor” when the trio was collaborating on multiple songs through each artist.
Comparing this album to her others, Little Oblivions is a huge step in her career. The sound of the album is noticeably more complex and developed, attesting to Baker’s progression as a songwriter and her role in producing the album. The lyrics discuss themes not new to her music but do so in a way that is more raw and more honest than before. After listening to the album a few times, I feel that the struggles Baker chose to write about are being honored for their role in getting to where and who she is now.
1. Lucy Dacus
2. Phoebe Bridgers
3. Snail Mail
1. Faith Healer
2. Zip Tie
3. Relative Fiction
Reviewer’s Name: Haley Williams
Date of Review: March 1, 2021