“Until then I’ll split the difference / Between medicine and poison / Take what I can get away with / While it burns right through my stomach” is just one of the very first devastating lyrics you will hear from Julien Baker on the opening track “Hardline” from her third album Little Oblivions. Not only is Baker’s writing right where you would expect it to be but for this album she ups the volume and features more complex arrangements compared to her previous work.
I feel like this sonic expansion was expected not only because this is album number three but it also matches her following that eventually will see Baker playing to larger audiences when we finally return to the live shows. This bigger sound establishes Little Oblivions as the most complex record in her discography although I still think Turn Out The Lights edges it as my overall favorite but all three albums in her catalog highlight her stand out talent.
Little Oblivions is a record you need to hear multiple times for it really to sink in. You could dissect its lyrics for days and that is what makes it great. Clearly, Baker wears her heart on her sleeve and is always sensitive while injecting plenty of indie rock in-between the notes. I also like how Baker snagged her boygenius collaborators, Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers, on “Favor” to help out on the vocal duties which seems like a natural fit for the album. There is one thing for certain about Little Oblivions – it firmly establishes Julien Baker as a career artist. When we look back someday this will be the album that gets the credit for pushing her to the next level!
Key Tracks: “Hardline” / “Ringside” / “Ziptie”
Artists With Similar Fire: Phoebe Bridgers / Bon Iver / Hand Habits
– Reviewed by Thomas Wilde