IMG_3785Sad Songs Make Me Feel Better
Julien Baker
Vera Project, Seattle, WA
22 February 2016
By: David Wexler

 

Yes, it’s true, sad songs do make me feel better, they’re cathartic. The title of this review was stolen from the custom shirt that Julien Baker’s friend in Ohio made. Julien proudly displayed the shirt as she picked up her guitar and quietly said hello to a packed & eager Seattle crowd.

As she played the first few notes of her single “Sprained Ankle,” the namesake of her debut album, the place became dead silent and Julien’s voice took over the still air. “Wish I could write songs about anything other than death,” the opening lyric sets the tone for the night, honest and hard to digest. After thanking the crowd, she commented how quiet we were. I could only guess that everyone was just as polarized as I was.

The heaviness of her lyrics is one of the reasons you are enthralled by her. She’s 21 and her songs seem far beyond a person her age. It takes guts to get up on a stage and play in front of a crowd of people and Julien is doing that by herself, baring her soul night after night.

FullSizeRenderDuring the 3rd song, “Everybody Does,” I felt my gut tense up as the lyric “You’re gonna run, it’s all right, everybody does” was repeatedly sung. It felt so raw to watch her sing these songs she wrote, the pain on her face was evident. I haven’t experienced that at a live show too many times in my life, if any at all.

During the middle of the set Julien played a new song which she tentatively titled “Funeral Pyre”. She said it “sounds like the name of a Pantera song” which gave us all a little chuckle, a relief from the darkness of her songs. I happened to glance up at the ceiling as Julien started playing “Good News” to see a little pink balloon caught in the corner, a small current of air from a nearby vent. I watched the balloon as it shook in place as Julien sang about substance abuse, perfect symbolism for anyone who has ever been through the same. Substance abuse is a main theme throughout many of her songs, she writes about it with unabashed honesty.

Over the course of 9 songs I felt all these emotions rushing to me as Julien poured everything out to a captivated audience. To If this is just the tip of the iceberg for Julien, I can’t wait to hear what is lying under the surface and even deeper down.

Setlist
Sprained Ankle
Blacktop
Everybody Does
Vessels
Rejoice
Funeral Pyre (Working title for new song)
Good News
Brittle Boned
Something