It’s surprising that Julien Baker considers her heartache to be a mere ‘ankle sprain’; it’s really more of a confessional, punctured lung. Her debut solo effort is courageous and soulful, the perfect record to be listened to during the worst of metaphorical and literal downpours.
The singer/songwriter genre typically bears witness to the pain and suffering of existence and shares the wisdom earned through the years. It's a place where emotional scars turn into facial wrinkles and become rites of passage like tree rings. So it's easy to be dismissive of Baker based on her newness to the genre, her rather awkward grimace on the cover, or the fact that she claims that her veins are “more whiskey than blood” despite being barely over legal drinking age in her native Tennessee.
But consider the following; Baker proudly identifies as a queer southern U.S. Christian; a cocktail of emotional and political dichotomies. She tackles ideas of faith, love and the state of the world with a perfect mixture of soft ambient guitar and subtle accompaniment, something she has perfected with her time in the slow-burn indie band Forrister. She also bares all of her soul in her voice.
In “Rejoice”, among others, she throws her passion and pain around with absolute reckless abandon, stressing out those young vocal chords in the process. True, she may not be able to do that ten years from now, but it's her youthful gaze upon the darkest parts of our existence which make it the most compelling piece.
This not just another emo kid sad and depressed at the four walls around them. Baker is very aware of her walls, shortcomings and hypocrisies. She sees the big picture: “Gimme everything good / I will throw it away...I rejoice / and complain”.