Entertainment Music

Monday 19 August 2019

Julien Baker can be welcomed as the most exciting new songwriter of the past several years

Five stars

Julien Baker
Julien Baker

Ed Power

Julien Baker, 22, sings her heart out in ways both new and reassuringly familiar.

The Memphis, Tennessee songwriter, whose Irish debut was an instant sellout, is confessional and troubled in an often conventional fashion.

Her heart has been broken; she has a sneaking inclination the world is against her; she doesn’t, in that millennial way, know whether to laugh, cry, or throw her hands in the air.

But there's a powerful defiance behind the angst, while her lyrics brim with oblique references to her Christian faith. An added imponderable is that she is gay – conjuring a powder keg of contradictions in the context of America’s religion and homophobia infused culture wars.

Happily here in Ireland she can be welcomed, straightforwardly, as the most exciting new songwriter of the past several years. A set loaded with cathartic dirges, many drawn from new LP Turn Out The Lights, is unexpectedly uplifting, with Baker flitting between guitar and piano to deliver material simultaneously suffused in darkness and lit up with optimism.

One annoyance is a typically eager to be loved Dublin crowd, whose insistently matey sing-alongs occasionally overshadow the sparse majesty of Baker's voice. She, however, enjoys the sweltering adoration even as she pushes her sad and exquisite compositions once towards ever more melodramatic heights.

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