Memphis singer-songwriter Julien Baker won the hearts of her audience in 2015 with the release of Sprained Ankle, followed by her sophomore album Turn Out The Lights in 2017. On Baker’s new album, Little Oblivions, her music takes a turn, yet doesn’t veer so far from past projects that she abandons what her fanbase has come to know and love.
One unfamiliar element that fans of Baker’s solo work might notice in the opening track “Hardline,” but is perhaps less surprising to those familiar with boygenius (what Phoebe Bridgers refers to as her “boyband” with Baker and Lucy Dacus, who reunite on the track “Favor”) and band Forrister, is the use of instrumentation previously unheard in Baker’s work. Formerly working predominantly with guitar and the occasional piano, the introduction of drums and heavier, layered production on this track is foreign, but a pleasant surprise.
This new instrumentation is a constant throughout the album, however, one thing that Baker’s listeners are more than familiar with and are re-introduced to on this record is her raw honesty. Although it seemed like it may not be possible, considering how openly she speaks about her turmoil in relationships, her faith, and her experience with addiction, Baker somehow manages to speak even more rawly and honestly on this new project. In “Song in E,” she sings “I wish that I drank / Because of you and not only because of me / And then I could blame something painful enough / Not to make me look any more weak.” This is just one example of the honesty that is perhaps one of the most endearing aspects of Baker’s music and is a constant throughout this album.
If you’re a fan of Baker’s past projects, you will not be disappointed by this new album, as long as you’re open to the changes she has made instrumentation-wise.