“Everything on Little Oblivions will make you feel, and it’s the catharsis we all need”– Uncut
“… she expands her instrumental breadth with bass, drums, keyboards, banjo and mandolin, paired with her typically honest and piercing lyricism”
– Evening Standard ‘Best Albums to Look Forward to This Month’
“Little Oblivions unflinchingly reflects on the traumas that have defined Baker’s young life to date, channelled through haunting melodies and her plaintive, country-lonesome voice”– MOJO
“Her most striking album yet” – DIY
“Stunning” – Nylon
Today, Julien Baker has shared another single from her forthcoming albumLittle Oblivionsby way of a new single, ‘Favor’. The track follows up Baker’s previously released singles, ‘Hardline’ and ‘Faith Healer’. Fans can pre-order Little Oblivionshere and the album will be available on February 26th via Matador / Remote Control Records.
“I used to think about myself, like I was a talented liar,”Baker sings on the track, “turns out that all my friends were trying to do me a favor.” Here those friends are Baker’s boygenius collaborators, Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers. Phoebe says, “Julien is one of those people whose opinion you want to hear about everything. A true critical thinker with an ever-changing and ridiculously articulate worldview. Her music changes in the same way, and this record is my favorite thing she’s ever done. I’m sure I’ll think the same about the next one.”
Lucy noted, “We sang on Favor in Nashville the same day we recorded vocals for Graceland Too and a song of mine. That day had the same atmosphere as when we recorded the boygenius EP. Making music was just a natural result of being together, easy as can be but also rare in a way that feels irreplicable. I love the song for its stark but sensitive picture of friendship, what it looks like to recover from broken trust. Makes me think about how truth only ever breaks what should be broken, and how love is never one of those things. I’m always honored to be brought into Julien’s life and music.”
During a recent at home performance for Seattle’s KEXP, Baker performed songs off of Little Oblivions as well as a cover of Soundgarden’s 1995 single ‘Fell On Black Days’. Watch the full session and interview with host Cheryl Watershere.
The New York Times included the album in their ‘11 Things To Look Forward to In 2021’, column noting “How does a songwriter hold on to honest vulnerability as her audience grows….she scales her music up to larger spaces, backed by a full rock band with ringing guitars and forceful drums. But she doesn’t hide behind them; she’s still ruthless and unsparing, particularly about herself.” Rolling Stone said “Little Oblivions’ is not only the most richly produced, pop-aware release of Baker’s career, but also her the most unsparingly honest in its messiness” and Variety stated“While the basics of her autobiographical and cathartic songwriting style remain the same, the arrangements are far more fleshed out with multiple instruments, nearly all of which are played by Baker herself. Without pushing an obvious comparison too far, what Bridgers’ ‘Punisher’ was to 2020, ‘Little Oblivions’ is very likely to be to 2021.”
‘Faith Healer” first introduced the exhilarating, widescreen musical palette and infectious spirit of risk-taking found on Little Oblivions, a transformative sonic shift from Baker’s more spare and intimate previous work. Engineered by Calvin Lauber and mixed by Craig Silvey (The National, Florence & the Machine, Arcade Fire), both of whom worked with Baker on 2017’s Turn Out the Lights, the album was recorded in Baker’s hometown of Memphis, Tennessee between December 2019 and January 2020. Baker’s tactile guitar and piano playing are enriched with newfound textures encompassing bass, drums, synthesizers, banjo and mandolin, with nearly all of the instruments performed by Baker. The album weaves unflinching autobiography with assimilated experience and often hard-won observations from the past few years, taking Baker’s capacity for starkly galvanising storytelling to breathtaking new heights.
Little Oblivionsis the follow up to Baker’s 2017 sophomore album and first on Matador Turn Out The Lights. The New York Times said the LP is “the work of a songwriter who has resonated with an international audience (…), the rare second album that, despite new self-consciousness, stretches beyond an unspoiled debut to reach for even bigger things, with all its passion intact”. The Sunday Times said “the mix of detached vocals, lush arrangements and laid-bare post-mortems on love, loss, dysfunction and acceptance is devastating.”
In 2018, Baker formed boygenius with Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus. The resulting eponymous EP and joint North American tour made for one of the most celebrated and talked about musical communions of that year, highlighting Baker at the forefront of a burgeoning generation of era-defining artists.
If you are lucky enough to have a future where the present anxieties of distance become romantic memories, I hope there are people who turn this album over in their hands years from now and remember the world it tumbled into. A world that, in whatever future moment exists, will likely be defined by the work people undertook and the fights people continued to show up for. But it will also be a world defined by how many of us exist on the other side of distance.
In the moment, here is a new Julien Baker album that arrives as a world comes to newly understand its relationship with touch, with distance. At the time of this writing, I shouldn’t want to run into the arms of anyone I love and miss, and yet I do. In an era of hands pressed on the glass of windows, or screen doors. An era of hands reaching back. An era where touch became an illusion. If we have been unlucky enough, our own lifetimes have prepared us for the ever-growing tapestry of aches.
To wrestle with the interior of one’s self has become a side effect of the times, and will remain a side-effect of whatever times emerge from these. The first time I ever heard Julien Baker, I wanted to know how an artist could survive such relentless and rigorous self-examination. I have been lonely, I have been alone, and I have been isolated. There are musicians who know the nuances between the three. What whispers in through the cracks of a person’s time alone. Julien Baker is one of those artists. A writer who examines their own mess, not in a search for answers, but sometimes just for a way out. A lighthouse to some newer, bigger mess.
It is hard to put into words what this feels like. Little Oblivions is an album that steps into that feeling and expands it. Sonically, from the opening swells of sound on ‘Hardline’ rattling the chest, loving but persistent jabs to the way ‘Relative Fiction’ spills into ‘Crying Wolf,’ which feels like speeding down a warm highway that quickly turns into a sparse landscape, drowning in a hard rain. Lyrically, too, of course. There are writers who might attempt to bang at the doors of their listeners, shouting their particular anguish of the hour. And there are undoubtedly times when I have needed that to get from one sunrise to the next. But there are also writers who show up assuming anyone listening already knows what it is to crawl themselves back from one heartbreak, or to shout into an enduring darkness and hear only an echo. Little Oblivions is an album that details the crawling, details the shouting. An album that doesn’t offer repair, or forgiveness. Sometimes, though, a chance to revel in the life that is never guaranteed. Yes, the life that grows and grows and is never promised. How lucky to still be living, even in our own mess.
The grand project of Julien Baker, as I have always projected it onto myself, is the central question of what someone does with the many calamities of a life they didn’t ask for, but want to make the most out of. I have long been done with the idea of hope in such a brutal and unforgiving world, but I’d like to think that this music drags me closer to the old idea I once clung to. But these are songs of survival, and songs of reimagining a better self, and what is that if not hope? Hope that on the other side of our wreckage – self-fashioned or otherwise – there might be a door. And through the opening of that door, a tree spilling its shade over something we love. A bench and upon it, a jacket that once belonged to someone we’d buried. Birds who ask us to be an audience to their singing. A small and generous corner of the earth that has not yet burned down or disappeared. I can be convinced of this kind of hope, even as I fight against it. To hear someone wrestling with and still thankful for the circumstances of a life that might reveal some brilliance if any of us just stick around long enough.
Julien, how good it is to hear you again. And now, in all of our anguish and all of our glory. I miss the way the outside world reflected myself back to me. Now, I make mirrors out of the walls. I am so thankful for a better noise than the howling of my own shadows. Julien, you have done it again. You expert magician. You mirror-maker. Thank you for letting us once again watch you maneuver through all of your pleasant and unpleasant self-renderings. If there is a future, there will be people in it who might not remember how this album came at a time when so many hungered for a chance to put themselves back together. When the imagination of a person, a city, a country, was expanding. When, despite all of that, in the quiet moments, there were people who still wanted to be held by someone they maybe couldn’t touch. Thank you, Julien, for this comfort. This glass box through which a person might better be able to see a use for their own grief. This kingdom of small shards of sunlight, stumbling their way in to disrupt the darkness.
— Hanif Abdurraqib
Julien Baker – Little Oblivions
3. Faith Healer
4. Relative Fiction
5. Crying Wolf
9. Song in E
11. Highlight Reel
Julien Baker – Little Oblivions is out February 26 via Matador Records / Remote Control Records.