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Published on Mar 7, 2016
March 7, 2016 by BOB BOILEN
There are nine spare, simple songs on Julien Baker's debut album, Sprained Ankle, and every one of them is sad. In fact, she came to the Tiny Desk with an untitled new one — since given the name "Funeral Pyre" — and she appropriately introduced it as "Sad Song #11." But Baker's shimmering electric-guitar picking, the purity of her voice and the yearning way she sings make each of her songs lovely and memorable rather than merely somber. She takes raw emotions and weaves them into perfect bits of memorable poetry like this, from the song "Good News":
In the thin air my ribs creak Like wooden dining chairs when you see me Always scared that every situation ends the same With a blank stare
For fans of Torres, another Tennessee musician, there's a similar intensity to that electric guitar and lonesome sound. But unlike the intensity Torres unleashes with her voice, Baker lets her words carry the volume. It's a tone that lulls you into her world and has me eagerly anticipating "Sad Song #12" and beyond.