With Turn Out the Lights, the now 21-year-old Julien Baker returns to a much bigger stage, but with the same core of breathtaking vulnerability and resilience.
The album explores how people live and come to terms with their internal conflict, and the alternately shattering and redemptive ways these struggles play out in relationships. Baker casts an unflinching and accepting eye on the duality of –and contradictions in –the human experience, at times even finding humor and joy in the midst of suffering.
The album was recorded at the legendary Ardent Studios in her hometown of Memphis, TN, and mixed by Craig Silvey (The National, Florence + The Machine, Arcade Fire). This evolution from Sprained Ankle’s intentionally spare production allowed greater scope and freedom for Baker, who is still the album’s sole writer and producer. Strings and woodwinds now shade the corners of her compositions, and Baker takes to piano rather than guitar on several tracks.
As always, the real draw is her songwriting and lyricism. Where her debut focused inward on Baker’s life and aspects of her identity, Turn Out the Lights reflects on not only her own experiences, but also the experiences of those closest to her. The result finds Baker narrating a deliberate meditation on how we each try to deal with our ever-shifting mental health, and the impact this can have on both ourselves and others.