Julien Baker - Little Oblivions

Regular price $ 27.99

Julien Baker's third album, Little Oblivions, follows her first appearance on the Billboard 200 with 2017's Turn Out the Lights as well as a full-length collaboration with like-minded singer/songwriters Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus under the handle Boygenius. Giving the impression of being ready for bigger stages, Little Oblivions turns up the volume and expands arrangements, including notably adding a consistent rhythm section to her songs for the first time. Beyond mere "full-band arrangement," though, tracks like "Ringside" and opener "Hardline" feature rousing, arena-sized moments with a sea of ringing guitars, shimmery keys, and, in the case of the former, full drum kit and crashing cymbals. As if to prepare listeners, the album's opening seconds comprise a mix of fuzzy keyboard tones, low strings, and electronics. It's a sharp contrast to her sparse and brittle debut, though the music remains almost entirely self-made, with Baker performing all but an "additional instrumentation" credit from engineer Calvin Lauber and backing vocals by Dacus and Bridgers on one track ("Favor"). What also hasn't changed over time are the songwriter's self-examining, ruminative lyrics and pained vocal delivery, presented here in tandem with a very heavy dose of self-loathing. Lyrics like, "Face down in the carpet, I wish you'd hurt me/It's the mercy I can't take" ("Song in E") and "How long do I have until I've spent up everyone's good will?" ("Favor") populate emo-adjacent songs about waning faith, drinking, depression, and doomed relationships. There are glimmers of gratitude alongside the masochistic ideation of entries including "Ringside," where she casts herself as her own opponent in the ring. That song also deviates from typically rising and falling, sine wave-shaped instrumentation patterns, opting instead of constantly churning accompaniment. Elsewhere, "Song in E" offers another change of pace with a despondent piano ballad. Despite the bigger sound on average, however, Baker's brutal lyrical authenticity remains the main attraction.

1 Hardline 3:51
2 Heatwave 2:44
3 Faith Healer 2:54
4 Relative Fiction 4:19
5 Crying Wolf 3:29
6 Bloodshot 3:47
7 Ringside 4:00
8 Favor 4:38
9 Song in E 2:44
10 Repeat 2:55
11 Highlight Reel 3:36
12 Ziptie 3:42