Julien Baker? What she be baking doe 😳😳😳😳😳
"Little Oblivions" assures Julien's now cemented status amongst singer-songwriter giants of the modern-day, and while she may lack the lyrical robustness of her bandmate and fellow artist Phoebe Bridgers, she makes up for it with solid production choices all around. However, it's quite clear that the glaring issue with Little Oblivions' newly adorned maximalist indie-pop sound is that it throws the emphasis off Julien's writing and vocals. Not to mention, the rather messy mix on the whole front of the project. However, these shortcomings are easily overcome by the majority of Litlle Oblivions, bolstered by the standout single "Hardline", which has been on repeat as of late.
The sound of this record is surprisingly interesting and three-dimensional in form; giving Julien a push against other artists in a similar vein, but as I mentioned, sometimes the production is a bit too overblown, leaving little or more breathing space for us to hear the artist herself. In fact, the sound of this record carries the writing by quite a long mile, hence it's only fitting I put this outside the "90 bracket", and into the lower echelons of my rating system. Sure, this is probably her 2nd worst project and is clearly not her Punisher, but it's evident there's a good sense of emotion gone into the creation of it. It's clear her path to fame hasn't been exactly a paved road, and addiction is a major topic covered across a majority of her music. It's refreshing to hear, and certainly a solid set of topics to cover.
However, I can't get over how the album's mixing doesn't let the lyrics breath a bit, and while her poignant and uplifting vocals are present everywhere across the board, they standout on the more acoustic cuts on "Little Oblivions". Unlike Punisher's conceptuality of slowly burning into an amped-up, all-out, thematic apocalyptic conclusion, Little Oblivions' heat map is scattered everywhere across the place. Hence it lacks the cohesion or completion of Punisher, but I should be refraining by comparing these two pieces a little too much. These formulas are as old as time, and the project must be accessible to any pop listener, or vice versa, a more obscure listener. Of course, talking about the jaws of death and addiction is also a tried and tested topic, but Julien's implementation of the idea deserves brownie points. Bloodshot, sounds like a middle-of-the-road opus, and while cohesive thematically, the album is once again scattered in its highlights. But how does that matter when some of the highlights on here are easily the year's finest musical moments. What this yields in his somewhere between brilliance, but also highlights a few glaring issues with the album's mix once again. Ringside has glaringly loud synths that have some appeal, but the stadium-rock feel of it might not gel with her voice ever too well. Sure, I'm going into the bag of negatives early on, but this album had the potential of being show-stoppingly good.
But it isn't and that's to my heart's discontent, however, the album gets a surprise kick in the form of Song In E, which seems divisive, but damn, it sort of works. The rather hollow feeling pop-ballad theme packs quite the punch and is a detailed view into Julian's vocal abilities. This reinstated my faith in the record as a whole, as the chords even have a Radiohead edge to them, as some Youtube user, fortunately, pointed out, and I could agree to that analogy quite a bit, but I'm a fan of Radiohead analogies in comparison to any piece of music, to be honest. And then I realize, despite my thirst for various maximalist brands of music, avant-pop, and boom-bap, the slow-burning, ballad filled portions of "Little Oblivions" are the true penchants. they in fact, are the only tracks with the capability to deal blows to "Hardline" as the project's Tour De Force. Of course, once again it's evident that this isn't her best project, but then I had something appear in front of me, I came to the realization that this is a self-produced project. Now that is quite impressive, to say. Considering how much I cited the emphasis on production, this means this is a masterclass by all fronts, by a single artist. I've been known to give extra credit to any singer/rapper who implements their own production, and "Little Oblivions is no different". Of course, the production on the final front isn't as impressive, but the appeal to me comes in the form of her melancholy, poignant and powerful vocal leads on this part of the record, furthermore woo-ing me about the body of work. And at this point, I started to take back everything I said about the album's engineering faults and decided to solely focus on the un-professional aspects of it. And it turns out, "Little Oblivions" is actually in the forefront of running for the year's finest project. The indie-pop/chamber-pop aesthetic towards the album's curtains, bridged by her vocals, form the album's saving grace in opposition to some of the more avant-garde openers.
So at the end of the day, Little Oblivions is the right balance between a disappointment and a fucking masterpiece. It clearly doesn't breach and trespass into my 90 category, but only time will tell if it grows on me in terms of fondness, but for now, it's quite the solid comeback for Julien's solo career, as she continues to strive and revel in the merits and fruits of her work. It doesn't have a lot of variation or alternate spectrum, and the production can be derivative, but it's still surprisingly impressive and breaks away from the mould set by herself.