LITTLE OBLIVIONS - JULIEN BAKER ALBUM REVIEW
Little Oblivions is Baker's third album, or fourth if you include boygenius, her group with Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus.
With Little Oblivions, Baker takes a trip away from her classic subtle acoustic sounds and adds a huge amount more power. It would have been easy to go too far with the new full-band sound that Baker presents, however the new sound loops around her heartbreaking vocals and words.
This album is yet another album that fits into the lockdown genre; self-produced with loneliness and melancholy as a theme.
It's not the easiest album to listen to. The content of the lyrics is incredibly hard-hitting and the album doesn't really let up at any point. However, where the album lacks in light-heartedness it gains in emotional depth and honesty.
Little Oblivions opens with 'Hardline' which shows Baker in her new fully formed full band production. It goes straight in with the lyrics 'Blacked out on a weekday / Still something that I'm trying to avoid', with powerful instrumentals coming in at the chorus, which sets the tone for the rest of the album.
It's difficult not to become emotionally invested in Little Oblivions. The narrative told throughout the album pulls you in and makes your heart well and truly ache for the narrator.
In songs like 'Relative Fiction', you get the narrative of an incredibly difficult relationship, well summarised by the lyric 'cause I don't need a savior / I need you to take me home.', which you get mixed with songs like 'Heatwave' which focuses more on issues with the self. There's a variety of difficulties represented, so it's no surprise that Little Oblivions feels as heavy as it does.
'Crying Wolf' and 'Song in E' see Baker make more of a return to the music Baker is known for, with simple acoustics framing her haunting voice and the story she's telling. 'Song in E' is a song that's been in Baker's set-list for a while, originally named Mercy, which may be why it hasn't taken on the newer more all-encompassing sound.
'Bloodshot' is the stand-out track but is also one of the tracks that are particularly difficult to listen to if you really focus on the lyrics. It may be easy to pass by the true meaning if you don't think about it too much, but once you take a delve into the lyrics you won't listen to the song the same. Lyrics from 'Bloodshot' also feature on the album artwork, which is arguably one of the most gut-wrenching lyrics on the album “There’s no glory in love, only the gore of our hearts,”
It seems within her third album, Baker has defined herself in her genre and with her songwriting and storytelling abilities but also shows how significantly her vocals have improved.
The especially intriguing part of this album is there is no positive resolution. The album doesn't end with a ballad stating everything will be fine. It simply lays out the honest and raw negativity and runs with it. This lack of inspiring words actually works incredibly well after the intense themes throughout the album, as you'd be tempted to wonder the genuineness of a line suddenly saying we'd be fine if it were included. It's essentially saying, no, nothing is okay - but that's okay.
Overall, Little Oblivions is stunning. It really is a triumph for Baker, and a step up from previous albums. It delves deep into real trauma and finds emotional clarity, all through the means of impeccable songwriting and a mix of borderline anthemic sounds and slowed acoustic. Definitely one of the top releases of 2021 so far.