The first time that I listened to Julien Baker’s Sprained Ankle was while passing through the seemingly endless mountains surrounding Chattanooga on a relatively sunny day. I have since listened to Sprained Ankle many times over, even as I type this, the sound of cars passing through the rain and a glass of wine being the only other notable presences in the room. There’s this certain, unquantifiable feeling that attaches itself to musicians like Baker, whose work is unrelentingly personal and impossible to witness unfurl as a simple bystander.
A maker of memoirs in miniature, Baker traffics in subject matter that some casual listeners might be surprised to know are the product of a 20-year old existence: substance abuse, interpersonal longing, body horror, and conflicting conceptions of God are among many prickly topics handled with deft perception and nary a glimmer of cynicism.
Armed with nothing but her guitar and a litany of pedals, Baker was kind enough to perform two of the nine tracks that make up Sprained Ankle, a performance filmed at The 5 Spot, against a backdrop of replaceable liquor bottles and haunted barstools. This intimate setting ultimately betrays an ascendant singer-songwriter becoming quickly spotlighted by many major music publications and acknowledged by many of her soon-to-be peers, from Sharon Van Etten to The National, for whom she will be opening at the end of this month. Simultaneously, the setting is appropriate for someone whose music demands to be listened to with full attention, with no distraction other than the immediate environment in which it exists. Thanks, as always, to our friends at Made In and the lovely owners of the Fiver.
– Kevin B.