Julien Baker may be the youngest of the three women in folkie supergroup boygenius, but was first to release a debut album in 2015, at age 20, and the only one to play Colorado Springs to date. The Tennessee singer often takes a backseat to Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers, however, maybe because Baker’s masochistic anguish can feel so personal. The pain is still there in Baker’s third album Little Oblivions (Matador Records), but many more instruments are layered on top (most played by Baker) to give the album the kind of thrilling sound Bridgers achieved in last year’s Punisher.
Baker can feel proud about being strident and queer in the Southern evangelical communities where she grew up, but still gives herself a hard time about substance abuse and slip-ups in personal integrity, as in “Faith Healer,” which warns that “The smoke alarm’s been going off for weeks.” Hopefully, the astounding results she gets from these songs will lead her to greater confidence or to drop the artifice of self-doubt, because these tracks confirm she is stronger and more honest than most songwriters in the music business.
Also New & Noteworthy
Cloud Nothings, The Shadow I Remember (Carpark Records) – Cleveland’s Cloud Nothings have always combined post-punk guitar fuzz with the type of controlled dissonant chaos heard in bands like Polvo or Trumans Water. In their previous six studio albums (not counting two 2020 quarantine works) songwriter Dylan Baldi has added more melodic flourishes with each release, and the new album has moments of outright loveliness, with the vocals of Macie Stewart (of Ohmme) in “Nothing Without You” or the honky-tonk piano in “Nara.” Even if the unique riffs flag a little toward the album’s end, Cloud Nothings continue to sound distinctly unlike any other band out there,
Brijean, Feelings (Ghostly International) – This sophomore album from DJ Brijean Murphy (of Toro y Moi) and Doug Stuart dives deeper into Latin and soul roots, giving it a space-age bachelor pad bossa nova feel akin to L.A.’s newest vocal sensation Claude Fontaine. Brijean brings a little added confidence and experience to the delivery of tracks like “Daydreaming,” though the music is intended more for seductive parties than deep listening.