In the space of the last eighteen months, the stock of Memphis-born singer-songwriter Julien Baker has risen considerably.
Following the release of her debut album Sprained Ankle in late-2015, Baker has received consistent critical acclaim and toured with the likes of Paramore and Death Cab For Cutie.
The build-up to the release of sophomore record Turn Out The Lights, her first since signing to Matador Records, led to her UK tour selling out months in advance, and on a week in which a whole range of big-name artists are playing in Glasgow, Baker’s show at the CCA tonight is the hottest ticket in town.
The venue is packed with a visibly excitable audience as Baker takes to the stage and begins with the gorgeously haunting ‘Appointments’.
Baker is a one-woman band tonight, and has used a guitar, loop pedal and keys before the end of her first song.
The early stages remain fairly subdued, allowing the intricacies of Baker’s new material to come to the fore, with ‘Sour Breath’ being an early highlight; even the stoniest heart is softened as, acapella, Baker whispers “you’re everything I want, I’m all you dread”.
Just as the set threatens to plateau, Baker moves to the keyboard and breaks everyone’s heart in a new way, particularly on a stunning ‘Hurt Less’.
She makes numerous references to the cathartic healing power that songwriting and performing music has had on helping to conquer her anxiety and depression.
Her songs have evidently had a similar effect on those in attendance tonight, as there isn’t a dry eye in the house by the time she reaches the end of her set with a heartfelt ‘Something’, unleashing the full range of that killer voice.
Alongside the likes of Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker is at the forefront of a wave of singer-songwriters specialising in a stripped-back brand of emo.
The Glaswegian crowd remain silent in hushed awe throughout Baker’s set tonight, appreciative of being in the presence of such a wonderful talent.
Her songs are introverted, and deal with intense feelings of loneliness and isolation, but still manage to work exceptionally well in a live setting.
Baker sings on ‘Sprained Ankle’ that she wishes she could “write songs about anything other than death”; but when her songs are this good, why would she ever want to.
Words: Graham McCusker
Photos: Allan Lewis / Jake Gordon