Don’t Press Skip: Turn Out the Lights by Julien Baker

By Henry Strickland

While this record came out back in February, I keep finding myself returning to it often enough that I felt it warranted a standalone review. Faced with an almost daily deluge of new music, I think it’s worth remarking on the albums that have stuck with me for one reason or another, which is what I’ll be doing here. Enjoy! 

Turn Out the Lights is the second full-length LP from Julien Baker, the 21-year-old Memphis, TN native whose 2015 album Sprained Ankle turned heads with barebones and heart-wrenching standout tracks such as “Distant Solar Systems” and “Funeral Pyre.” Turn Out the Lights comes to us on the renowned independent label Matador Records and was mixed by the legendary Craig Silvey (credits include The National, Arcade Fire, and the Arctic Monkeys). Baker expands upon the stripped-down guitar & vocals of her debut, incorporating piano, strings, and woodwinds that further enhance the emotional potency of her songs. Her powerful vocals and evocative lyrics depict depression, loneliness, and loss in ways that are as universally accessible as they are creative. On “Happy to Be Here” Baker imagines herself as an electrician repairing the circuitry in her brain so that she can live the life she’s “supposed” to, and on “Claws in Your Back” she explains that slitting her wrists open is merely a curiosity-driven experiment in how to die.

Baker captures the intricacies, paradoxes, and perplexing beauty of the emotions and circumstances that drag us down to our lowest points, reminding us that the catharsis of crying yourself to sleep at 3am is an essential part of the human experience. 

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Favorite Tracks: Appointments, Turn Out the Lights, Shadowboxing, Sour Breath, Claws in Your Back

Entirely Subjective Numerical Rating: 8.2/10 

Recommended if You Enjoy: Waxahatchee, TORRES, Mitski, Julie Byrne