Labels can get us into trouble. They can needlessly restrict the mind and the heart. They can truncate views, and hopes and dreams. But they also save time, or terabytes, or bandwidth, as the case may be.
No one likes them. But they can be kinda sorta useful for a moment or two.
Okay. So with this singer/songwriter, a past band-mate with a previous subject on Spinozablue, Phoebe Freakin’ Bridgers, I’ll throw out a few to see if any of them stick, walk away, or heal the world:
Indie musician, Ex-addict, Christian Socialist, In-transition, Quiet-punk, Surprisingly quiet rebel, Surprisingly able to belt them out, Gay.
Moving away from labels a bit, listening to her music makes me think that something is happening here, to borrow a phrase. It’s a little corner, a rising niche. But it’s there. Young, extremely talented women who just don’t put up with shite, but the way they let you know this is through their art, and it’s mostly subtle, very subtle, but not always. And it has range. The music has dynamic range and complexity, diversity of tones, decibels, textures. It’s soft and low and hard and high and all things in between. And it tells stories that once were never told. Out and about. Deep, sometimes (existentially) gut-wrenching. And sometimes, if you don’t pay close enough attention, you can miss it. If you listen just halfway, you can miss it. Or, when they blast away, when they step down hard on the pedal, you can forget what came before and after the blast, and think it’s all punk when it’s not.
I love the haunted sweetness of it, the purity, the boldness and truthfulness. And I also love that it and they — the singer/songwriters in this niche — demand that you pay attention to them, without smashing you over the head with a guitar. It’s a quiet demand, usually. Surprises you greatly, perhaps later, after you’ve listened and take the time to truly reflect. But it’s there.
This track, “Favor,” is from her latest album, Little Oblivions:
Julien Baker was born in Tennessee, in 1995, and raised in a suburb near Memphis. Her first album, Sprained Ankle, came out in 2015 to wide critical acclaim. In 2018, she formed the band, Boygenius, with Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers. They continue to help each other out on their solo projects as well, including Baker’s latest**.
Tour info and the like can be found on her official website: Julien Baker
**Dacus and Bridgers both sing backup on “Favor” above.