A lot has happened to Julien Baker since the release of her last album, 2017’s Turn Out The Lights. The Memphis musician formed supergroup boygenius with Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus. She reassessed her attitude to alcohol and, burned out by touring, she returned to college to complete her degree.
Returning to the studio upon graduation she adopted a band approach for third album Little Oblivions. The themes of booze, bars and faith remain true to her confessional style of writing but she’s swapped the fragility of her earlier releases for a more full-blooded sound. The tracks come wrapped in synths, banjo and drums that she mostly performs herself.
Stylistically the change isn’t as dramatic as might have been anticipated. She was already adept at creating build and using dynamics, which have just become more dramatic here. This follows the musical arc of Bridgers, with whom there are obvious similarities on ‘Bloodshot’ and ‘Favor’, and who guests on backing vocals alongside Dacus.
There’s also plenty of continuity, with ‘Crying Wolf’ and ‘Song In E’ having a stripped-back sound that prioritises synth and piano. In widening her sonic palette, however, Julien Baker has given herself more scope for welcome emotional catharsis.
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