Sometimes you turn on music, engage in the song and you experience physical chills. If you are interested in vocal stylings and haunting lyrics that will give you the previously mentioned chills, do yourself a favor and check out Turn Out the Lights by Julien Baker. On her sophomore album, Baker covers a broad variety of topics producing intimate music that could make the coldest of listeners feel something in the bottom of their gut. She questions her value, place in the world, and the process of grappling with inner demons-in this process Baker progresses further into a new space in her life as an artist.
Lyrically, this artist is unmatched by any competition in this music space. Julien openly struggled with addictive behavioral cycles. Her meticulously crafted verses reflect wisdom far beyond her years, holding true to the timeless ache that all addicts have come to know in both addiction and sobriety. But her message extends beyond addicts or those in recovery. Baker’s lyrics are accessible to anyone, with seemingly intentionally vague muses being addressed. Who has not gone through emotional trauma that produces questions of the deepest variety? If music can inspire you to search deep within your soul to answer questions Julien poses, then it is something worth your time.
Compositionally, Turn Out the Lights is constructed with slight variation from its predecessor. The album encounters more structure, including a variety of musical accompaniments that the bare bones freshman album Sprained Ankle did not see. More strings and sound effects create a polished, finished product that should be digested in its entirety. Musical fills tend to flesh out an album that might otherwise feel sparse. The album opens with “Over,” which sets the somber, pensive mood for tracks to come. The album’s first single, “Appointments,” was released as a music video prior to the album release, seems like a pensive take on the root cause of disappointing others. It is hard to not musically enjoy the album’s title track, “Turn Out the Lights,” that builds up rich momentum, exploding into a track laden with harmonies and electric guitar riffs that are something to write home about. “Everything to Help You Sleep at Night,” features the characteristically raw vocal progressions that Baker is notorious for along with simple piano and string accompaniment. Composition wise, “Hurt Less,” feels full, much like other tracks on Turn Out the Lights, but lyrically holds the story of progress from the pain and desperation seen in Sprained Ankle.
Tracking this young artists’ growth as she tours and continues writing will be nothing short of a joy. Julien Baker has a little something for every listener and will be sure to pull on the heartstrings of anyone who gives Turn Out the Lights a chance.