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December 2018 / January 2019
Review

Julien Baker - Sprained Ankle

It’s not often that music this vital rears its head.
Julien Baker - Sprained Ankle
Published: 8:46 am, March 17, 2017
It’s not often that music this vital rears its head.

Label: Matador
Released: 17th March 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

A sprained ankle really bloody hurts. It’s a sensitive, wince-inducing kind of agony that’s rather unique, and that’s why it’s the perfect title for Tennessee native Julien Baker’s debut LP. See, like the injury it’s named after, Baker’s nine-track album is a distinctive affair; ‘Sprained Ankle’ is uncompromisingly heartfelt to the point that it is physically affecting. Listening to this album you can’t help but dwell on the pains of the past, on the unrequited loves and the unrelenting losses, and it’s this sheer emotional power that makes Julien Baker’s first musical foray such a remarkable accomplishment.

Baker is a musician who understands that sometimes less is more; there’s no grand production here, no huge arrangements or fancy effects. Just one woman, a guitar, and a bucket-load of talent. For one so young – it’s remarkable to think she’s only 21 – Julien Baker has an astounding maturity to her songwriting. Not ‘mature’ in the ‘old and boring’ sense; Baker’s songs have a graceful ebb and flow that would take the average musician decades to master. That she’s accomplished such craft on her first album is simply breath-taking.

There’s so much to love here, be it the tenderness of the spellbinding title track, the five-minute crescendo that is ‘Go Home’ or the gorgeous harmonies of ‘Good News’. Throughout its 33-minute running time, ‘Sprained Ankle’ refuses to dwindle in terms of quality or heart.
Given that this LP was originally released in 2015, and is now being re-issued, it’s likely that some of you reading this will be familiar with Julien Baker’s stunning music. If you missed ‘Sprained Ankle’ first time around, it can’t be stressed enough how much you need to hear this album. It’s not often that music this vital rears its head. Jake Richardson

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