Julien Baker – Little Oblivions
Little Oblivions by Julien Baker is structured by the highs and lows that accompany drugs and alcohol. It’s a typical indie album with lots of instrumentals and very few words. Yet, the songs are wrapped in sentiments, lessons and musings that can only be achieved by the simplicity of its form. Sometimes the American singer’s release is lonely, bearing intense vulnerability; other times it’s frustrated and lost. The work – a never-ending cycle – depicts themes of loveless sex, self-loathing and existential religion.
Rough and sudden, Hardline is a somber introduction to the record. The production treads along delicate vocals that waver in a desperate cry. It’s heavy on the classical instruments and picks up to something more alternative with the arrival of the bass. Exploring intoxicating themes of alcohol, the track feels haunted yet mellow all the same. The lyric “gruesome beauty” from Heatwave is enjambed to Faith Healer. The latter’s melody is very fairytale-like and light; quite magical and easy on the heart, resulting in the overall tone coinciding with the title. It’s similar to coming up for air in the midst of drowning – fitting when one considers the heavy escapism offered by the motif of drugs.
Relative Fiction follows as another melodically easy listen. It’s casual and steady with careful consideration for the piano and bass. Crying Wolf is quiet; the lingering vibration of the keyboard weighing heavy on the stomach. Themes of one-night stands and drunken sex, the refusal to kiss and tell and the denial of regrets that come with such keep the never-ending toxic cycle going throughout. Maintaining the minimalist presence of the instruments, Song in E uses comparative silence to enhance the huskiness of Baker’s vocals. Abstract metaphors aside, the message is rather simple: it’s better to be hurt and get angry than to be let down softly out of pathetic mercy.
The slow build-up to soft-spoken vocals is held firm by an erratic thread of rhythm in Repeat. Lyrics are littered with various forms of repetition to really emphasise the theme of cyclical, destructive habits. The word “repeats” even concludes the track in a faded, distorted style. Ziptie brings back the religious motif and ends the album with wandering thoughts, unanswered questions and indefinite uncertainty. Overall, Little Oblivions is an effective form of escapism with small doses of reality.
Little Oblivions is released on 26th February 2021. For further information or to order the album visit Julien Baker’s website here.
Watch the video for Hardline here: