What you've heard about Julien Baker's new album is true. It's one of the year's best.Matador, 2017
8.8 / 10
Not to devalue Julien Baker‘s debut album, Sprained Ankle, but you knew something bigger was coming once she signed to Matador Records. And Turn Out The Lights is the proof. This is Baker’s star-making moment where her confessional songwriting translates to epic moments. In fact, it may remind you somewhat of Sorority Noise’s You’re Not As ______ As You Think from earlier this year. Both albums hit with an emotional gut punch that hurts long after they end. And both deal with religion in a way that’s interesting. The reason for that could be Sorority Noise’s Cameron Boucher helping Baker out with the record. However, all praise is due to Baker for her excellent songwriting.
If Baker was to allow me to turn on the lights and shine them on one song, in particular, it would be “Hurt Less”. “Hurt Less” ties somewhat to Baker’s previous song, “Blacktop”, in that both deal with a car accident. On “Hurt Less”, Baker is the victim; although, she shows no concern for her safety by refusing to wear her seatbelt. The reason it seems is that she doesn’t have a reason to live. Baker’s struggles with depression are too much, and it doesn’t feel like anyone can help her. Then, she finally finds someone who gives her a reason to live. She sings:
This year I’ve started wearing safety belts
When I’m driving
Because when I’m with you
I don’t have to think about myself
And it hurts less
In writing, it doesn’t seem as impactful, but when listening, it’s a journey through Baker’s emotions, which grip you instantly. But there’s more here than just “Hurt Less”. Baker’s voice soars to great heights on more than one occasion and ends the album in dramatic, poignant fashion on “Claws In Your Back”. Here, Baker accepts her faults with a massive declaration, “I wanted to stay!” We want you to stay too, Ms. Baker. For a very long time.