Album: Julien Baker – Little Oblivions review

by Harry Hodgson

An album of self evaluation, Julien Baker’s third LP is ready to strike a emotive chord

Throughout Little Oblivions, Julien Baker’s soft, yet stunning vocal presence is backed by a warm set of instrumentation – played for the most part by the songwriter herself. And the personal touch creates a truly elegant and emotional sound that runs in harmony alongside her extremely personal lyrical body of work. 

Baker’s vocals and words are unshielded; however, there is not a vulnerability. Little Oblivions is not a record that is asking for help, instead, it’s a strong message of realisation, and the understanding of one’s vices – whether it’s substance abuse or depression, which is then followed by the asking of forgiveness.

 This attitude is seen on the fantastic opener, Hardline ‘blacked out on a weekday, still something that I’m trying to avoid. Start asking for forgiveness in advance for all the future things I will destroy’. It is a brave opening statement. The abrupt staccato chords prepare the listener for the ride ahead. Nothing is off the table. And it serves as a declaration of the exploration that will take place. 

The striking honesty does not stop there. This is seen on album highlight, Song in E, where the devastating opening lyrics of ‘I wish I drank because of you and not only because of me’ is partnered by the minimal, delicate piano which adds a sombre, gloomy atmosphere – another example of Baker’s instrumentation feeling like the perfect accompaniment – and at no point overpowering her compelling lyricism and graceful vocal presence. 

The long player is tied up brilliantly with Highlight Reel, and the closer to the record, Ziptie. The former serves as a serge of hope with a passionate eruption of punchy, echoing drums. While the latter is  soft and delicate – its metronomic ending resembling a heart monitor, which brings the album to a powerful, poetic finale.

Little Oblivions is an affecting album of overwhelming emotional beauty. It is a collection to be marvelled at for its openness, and one that is ready to leave a true, lasting impression.

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