Little Oblivions Review

Little Oblivions Review

Duncan Sligh, Staff Writer

Julien Baker’s 2017 album “Turn Out the Lights” was met with massive critical acclaim upon release. The album was full of deep piano chords, ensemble strings, and a wealth of production quality to match Baker’s impressive vocals and songwriting ability. 

This established Baker as a bright young talent, somebody with a prodigious ability to fully envision the sound that they want to deliver their message in the best way. Many songwriters have emerged at a young age, but mastery of the studio space tends to take far more time. 

Baker has pushed her studio envelope once again with “Little Oblivions”, released on February 26. The soulful, powerful songwriting from “Turn Out the Lights” is back, but with a shot of adrenaline. 

Julien Baker really pushed the drums on this album, and it is a welcome step forward for her music. Baker’s previous work has always been beautiful, but not very danceable. This album is full of good songs with great rhythm.

The opening track “Hardline” immediately hits the listener with a chorus of synths and does not wait long to bring the drums into focus. 

As the rhythm begins to pick up, Baker sings her poetry with experience and precision. There are too many good lyrics to choose from for this article, exploring concepts such as loneliness, communication failure and survival. 

A noticeable pattern can be seen in the construction of these songs. Baker has always enjoyed slowly building to a climax in her music, but this album feels like an enhancement of that. 

The added drums bring an extra kick to the loud choruses, and their absence during many of the verses draws a lot of attention to Baker’s voice, and her lyrics. Where the quiet parts feel like focused, obscure indie ballads, the choruses have no fear of being played on the radio. 

Bringing in heavy drums was a risk. Too much instrumentation could have crowded Baker’s voice, but her songwriting and the production direction keeps the songs extremely balanced. 

The choice to make the album relatively short adds to the overall listenability of the album. No song goes over five minutes, but Baker still packs in enough quality songwriting in each song to keep the length from being a downside. 

These songs are very dense in content and production. There is clearly a lot of work that was put into every aspect of the album. The result is an even more complete picture of a young and extremely talented singer-songwriter, who now seeks to join the ranks of the most accomplished indie musicians currently working. 

This album is a huge step forward for an artist who did not need to take a massive step forward. It is a true accomplishment, and a great start to the music of 2021.