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Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle

Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle

★★★★

Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle

Extraordinary.

Label: Matador
Released: 17th March 2017

Rating: ★★★★

Every few years a record comes out that consumes you completely, forcing you to listen to each song ten times on repeat because you can’t let it go. Sprained Ankle is that record.

First officially released in October 2015 by 6131 Records, better known for hardcore punk, ‘Sprained Ankle’ has since been the singer-songwriter album of choice for punk fans. It’s no surprise; Baker stands with a guitar, a pedal board, a devastatingly beautiful voice, and delivers them with minimal production. It’s the simplicity with which she approaches the complexity of faith, self-harm, substance abuse, love and loss that makes her songwriting so extraordinary.

Exploring pain and isolation, ‘Blacktop’ adopts the metaphors of early 2000’s emo – ambulances, car crashes, hospitals – but applies them very literally, opening up and letting you experience the darkest of moments alongside her. The record is also influenced by some of indie’s greatest songwriters, evident in the guitars in ‘Brittle Boned’ and ‘Something’ where Baker’s adoration of Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard comes through.

The glow of the opening notes in title track ‘Sprained Ankle’ reverberates through the brutal honesty in the lyrics. “A marathon runner, my ankles are sprained” describing the resilience needed to get better. Being broken, but still in the race. Album highlight ‘Rejoice’ weighs heavy on your chest, aching with every downward strum. A flawless vocal performance, when Baker’s voice opens up for “I think there’s a God and he hears either way”, it hits as hard as any breakdown.

‘Sprained Ankle’ explores the heaviest of topics with incredible clarity, putting perspective to the aimless angst of youth, giving purpose and direction to the sadness. Perhaps the most astonishing thing about it is that it’s the beginning; that something this exceptional will not be her best. Kristy Diaz

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