Julien Baker's music speaks to all of your nagging insecurities, the daily worries that nibble away at your well-being even as you try to suppress them. The title of her debut album, Sprained Ankle, hints at that sensibility: An ankle sprain might be a pretty mundane injury, but it's certainly going to keep you off your feet for a while — especially if, as she sings in the title song, you're a marathon runner. At the same time, Baker's lyrics can tread beyond self-doubt to brush against devastation and almighty dread; she hooks listeners somewhere in between the smallness of the everyday and the gaping maw of the existential.
At Newport Folk, the 20-year-old Memphian filled the quad inside Fort Adams with plaintive folk songs and electric guitar. Midway through her set, Baker brought out Matthew Gilliam, her bandmate in Forrister, to add touches of atmospheric percussion to "Vessels" and "Brittle Boned." But for the most part, it was just her ragged-edged voice and ringing Telecaster — and that was enough to win over the audience, who gave her multiple standing ovations. Particularly well received was "Good News," which, as Baker explained, is about "thinking you ruin everything ... and then figuring out that you don't."
- "Sprained Ankle"
- "Everybody Does"
- "Brittle Boned"
- "Good News"
- "Funeral Pyre"
Audio: Joshua Rogosin, Suraya Mohamed, Loretta Rae; Photography: Adam Kissick