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Album Review – Little Oblivions by Julien Baker

Julien Baker
Little Oblivions
Rough Trade

After two albums of very direct and confessional singer-songwriter music, replete with sparse guitar-based arrangements, Julien Baker has made the big jump to a full band record on Little Oblivious. The addition of drums along with much denser overall production really works wonders for Baker’s evocative and personal songwriting. This becomes apparent on the opening song “Hardline,” which is driven by a series of programmed drum loops.

Baker played all of the instruments and percussion on Little Oblivions, giving the record a strong and coherent sound. Songs like “Faith Healer” demonstrate this newfound songcraft, with the piece building and releasing tension over a winding series of guitar/synth lines.

Lyrically, the record continues the deep personal exploration of Baker’s life, with all of its ugliness fully intact. While most artists will try to skirt away from their failings and low points, Baker explores those themes on every single track here. Rarely can an artist take something negative and ugly and make it beautiful like Baker does on here.

The emotional centerpiece of the record is the heart wrenching “Bloodshot,” a deep rumination of love’s failings. “There’s no glory in love, Only the gore of our hearts,” Baker sings over a desolate piano line, encapsulating the inherent dangers of becoming emotionally intimate with someone else, yet also recognizing that we can only love once we let our guards down and expose ourselves to pain.

Little Oblivious is a much harder album to get into than her previous releases, these songs require repeated listens as there are so many little flourishes hidden in every corner. However, the more you listen to Little Oblivions, the more these songs grow on you. There is something so uplifting about this collection of songs, that you just keep coming back for more.

Photo by Jeff Spirer