19 year old folk artist, Julien Baker, started making her own music as a way to stay creative during the school year at Middle Tennessee State University. Baker was also a member of the band, Forrister, which origins lie in the city of Memphis before she decided to part ways and start her solo career. Baker has been making music professionally since she was 13 years old dabbling in various musical projects, trying to establish herself as a musician. You can tell Baker has a diverse influence from her gentle but at times shouting vocals. And even in her interview with vulture.com she sates "Every teenager is really loyal to their music scene – especially being punk and hard-core." Even though it is clear of her outside influences, her album, Sprained Ankle, is filled with beautiful, bittersweet, self-reflective, dejected pieces of gold.
The second track and the lead single of the album, "Sprained Ankle" begins with some bittersweet, folky strumming that sounds like it could have been a cut on a Laura Veirs record. The song is a great tune with very well thought out and emotive lyrics. Baker sings "Each one so heavy, each one so cumbersome, Each one a lead weight hanging between my lung."A a very honest, and heart wrenching approach Baker takes on this song about an event in her personal life. This is what makes the track one of the best is because Baker speaks from the soul about her personal convictions and does it with sheer vulnerability.
In the song, "Everybody Does", Baker shows off her vocal range, as she passionately sings the lyrics "And I know, I know I know, I know oh,I know my soul and anybody else, you're gonna run, you're gonna run." Also, the minimalistic style guitar playing complements Bakers voice very well letting Baker voice take center stage as she pours her feelings out to her listeners. The beginning of the track, "Good News" sounds a lot like Azure Ray's, "These White lights Will Bend To Make Blue." The song is stylistically the best song on the album from Baker's disheartening voice to the the slow strumming of the guitar. Baker shines on this track letting her voice glide making the listener feel at ease and completely relaxed. The song is heavy emotionally but the sound is very calm, feeling as almost therapy to its listener.
The exposition of the song "Rejoice" has a Kings of Convenience type of sound due to the fact that the guitar has a light, tranquil, and early evening feel. On this track Baker's voice takes a back seat, as her voice is low and just an octave above a whisper. However, as the guitar strumming becomes faster and faster, her voice grows louder and louder until the point where she is shouting "Asking why did you let them leave, and then make me stay, know my name and all of my hideous mistakes."
Julien Baker's Sprained Ankle, shows that she has a ton of talent and even more potential. From her vocal range to the instrumentation, Baker is making a name for herself at such a young age. Sprained Ankle is a beautiful, melancholic piece of art that if released a little later in her career may be considered one of the better folk albums in the past few years. With folk artist like Kurt Vile, Sam Amidon, Sun Kil Moon among many other more reputable artist, Baker is proving she is not far behind.
By. Damani Harris 10/25/15