We've all gone through heartbreak at some point in our lives. Getting through it is perhaps one of the hardest things anyone can ever do; a feeling of losing part of you that may never come back is something very hard to get through. Thankfully, there are many things in this world we can turn to when we need to confide in something. We're not alone in hurting. Julien Baker beautifully illustrates depression and heartbreak in Turn Out The Lights, a devastating album that puts her heart out for all to see.
It becomes painfully obvious that Baker has been through a lot of pain when it comes to love. Turn Out The Lights speaks a lot about her situations: falling out of love, being in love with a bad person, not being able to be the best person for someone, and so forth. The record begins with the ambient yet gorgeous piano and string duet in 'Over,' a certain emptiness setting the tone for the rest of the record. It's simple, yet so amazingly effective. It leads into the devastating 'Appointments,' where Baker sings about being in a failing relationship as a result of mental health or addiction issues. The bright guitar and the way way the piano and Baker's voice sparkle and grow and explode at the end of the song are so woefully powerful and heartbreaking, every ounce of emotion that Baker feeling hits you in the same way it seems to hit her.
There are so many inner battles on Turn Out The Lights that its almost hard to comprehend one person can feel so much pain. 'Shadowboxing' describes Baker's battles with her inner demons, while 'Televangelist' sees her battling with her own faith in times of uncertainty. Both are very reflective on herself and her struggles, the latter having some beautiful piano work in it to amplify her struggle. In 'Everything That Helps You Sleep,' Baker sings of that horrible feeling of thinking that everything you do or did will or was never enough - a common and hard thing many people face. In the ghastly deliveries and the reflective instrumentals, all these emotions really come up from the bottom of your heart. The feelings you never even thought you may still have come bubbling back up, as if they're reminding you that they're still there.
Drug addiction is another battle Baker faces in Turn Out The Lights. 'Sour Breath' with its beautifully sad melodies describes depending on a partner who has issues with addiction while you are suffering with your own problems yourself. It's an extreme and tragic way of describing that hard-to-reach balance in a relationship of helping one another. 'Happy To Be Here' is Baker's recollection of her own battles with addiction, a verse hopelessly chanting: "Because I miss you the way that I miss nicotine / If it makes me feel better, how bad can it be? / Well I heard there's a fix for everything... Then why not me?"
Julien Baker's narrative of her love life is all under the umbrella of an unquenchable feeling of loneliness. Title track 'Turn Out The Lights' focusses on it at the start of the record, where Baker's sweet and personal delivery cries over the sentiment that you really only have yourself to depend on at the end of the day. The ending is simply beautiful, Baker's vocals powerfully exploding coming out in a euphoric release of emotion. Baker returns to this idea closer to the end of the album, almost as if there's a story being told in parts (beginning with the downfall of a relationship, then describing the causes, and finally in the aftermath). 'Hurt Less' deals with dependency after a relationship, weighing what it's like to have someone to depend on and being there to fend for yourself afterwards. The string section adds an extra touch of sadness to the song. 'Even' is depressing to the core, the very production of the acoustic guitar sounding heartbroken as Baker describes her pseudo-masochistic ways of determining love.
Turn Out The Lights ends on 'Claws In Your Back,' a song solely about depression and fighting your demons. Baker reaches a point of extreme isolation, a verse claiming "nobody knows the violent partner you carry around / With claws in your back, ripping your clothes / And listing your failures out loud." It doesn't feel like a track with finality to it, but there would be no other way to end the record. The tragic beauty behind Turn Out The Lights is that these songs aren't necessarily recollections of past emotions; these are still things she battles every day. You can feel that in every track. You feel that lingering emotion that lies in her heart that she cannot escape and continues to haunt her. Baker hasn't found a solution to her heartbreak yet; all she can do is record them so that she can share these sentiments with others who may feel the same we she does, and perhaps to look back and smile upon when times are better.
Depression is something that people carry around with them unwillingly. It drags them down and will eat away at them slowly, day by day, hidden under their smiles. Many times, depression can be rooted in heartbreak. Julien Baker beautifully illustrates depression and heartbreak in Turn Out The Lights, digging into the darkest reaches of her heart to sing about the demons that still haunt her every day. As tragic and heartbreaking as the album may be, it provides reassurance all the same. Whatever you may feel about love or sadness, you are never alone.
Favorite Tracks: Appointments, Hurt Less, Turn Out The Lights, Even, Televangelist
Least Favorite Tracks: I genuinely cannot pick a track with a flaw.
Rating: 97 / 100
Stream or buy Turn Out The Lights on Apple Music: