At just 19, Julien Baker exudes a maturity beyond her years. This singer-songwriter has created a unique debut album, with tracks that are not quite sad nor joyful but something in between – accurately portraying the ups and downs of life itself. Above all else, Sprained Ankle is raw. The album is essentially nothing more Baker and her guitar. This simplicity is refreshing; it allows each lyric and tremor of Baker’s voice to be heard. Her musical style can be described as a quiet introspection scattered with bursts of emotion. These songs are so revealing, so confessional, that listening feels almost like an intrusion. It’s as if the lyrics have come straight out of private diary.
Julien Baker knows something about pain and darkness. You might say, she is only a teenager, what could she possibly know about true suffering? Despite her youth, Baker has faced some demons. She puts forth this utterly vulnerable persona, with a mistake-ridden past, yet still a hopeful future. She is certainly a talented musician, but her singularity is this calm, unexaggerated self-portrayal. In particular, Baker’s willingness to put her flaws on display is admirable. Evidently, these songs have a deep personal meaning. There is an aspect of wisdom to Sprained Ankle as well, telling her own story turns into somewhat of a cautionary tale. Through soft-spoken lyrics, Julien Baker establishes a connection with her audience, letting them see into her very soul.
Sprained Ankle is just over 30 minutes long. Take a listen, it’s worth it.
Here are my top picks from the album:
The first song I listened to on the album, it has remained my favorite. This is not your typical break-up song.“Asking aloud why you’re leaving, but the pavement won’t answer me, and I know I mean nothing, nothing, nothing to you, but I thought I mean something something something, but I just said nothing, said nothing said nothing, sat and watched you drive away”
- “Everybody Does”
This describes feelings of inadequacy in the face of a new relationship. The lyrics are deeply saddening.“I’m a pile of filthy wreckage you will wish you’d never touched…you’re gonna run, when you find out who I am…you’re gonna run, it’s alright everybody does”
To me, this about embracing your imperfections and struggling with faith. Here, Baker stretches her voice to the point of breaking, adding another layer of emotion to the song.“But I think there’s a god and he hears either way. And I rejoice, and complain”
- “Sprained Ankle”
Perhaps the most biographical song on the album. There is little subtlety in this track and I love it.
“I wish I could write songs about anything other than death”
While Julien Baker has performed at smaller venues in New York and Chicago, she can often be found performing in Nashville because she is a student at MTSU. Her next local show will be at Exit/In on Wednesday, December 16th.