In Review: Julien Baker - 'Hardline'
There’s a heady potency to Julien Baker’s 'Hardline,’ that walks hand-in-hand with the song’s lyrical themes. Over, essentially, two verses and a chorus-refrain ending, Baker sings about her sobriety and issues with substance abuse. From the songs almost grating opening notes, Baker exerts her authority and talent as a songwriter.
It’s an almost harsh opening, like something being played uncomfortably close to you, that strides the line between discomfort and beauty. And it is uncomfortable at times, with Baker singing lines like “Would you hit me this hard if I wеre a boy?” and “I always told you you could leave at any time / Until then I'll split the difference / Between medicine and poison.” But the instrumental is captivating, lush, and poppy, something Baker said she very much wanted: for the song to be one you could "bang your head to". It’s certainly melodic and thought through, but still finds Baker lyrically bare and wide open.
‘Hardline’ grips, and doesn’t let go for the duration of it’s near-four-minute run-time. The build is slow and tense, the music coiling up behind Baker as she sings, and comes to a head with the instrumentals stretched taut behind her before exploding out as Baker wails a refrain of “oh, all the time.” Indeed, it belongs to that upper echelon of car-songs – the kind of tracks you blare out, screaming along, thrashing around at red-lights. It’s the kind of track that will one day find Julien Baker in an arena of thousands of fans in a crowd screaming her own lyrics back at her as the instrumentation swells and crashes into them. And what a dream that will be – the next great concert where we all scream as one at the artist onstage who wrote a song that hits us so hard we can’t help but exhort ourselves.
Baker’s impending album, Little Oblivions, looks poised to rule 2021, mirroring how her boygenius band-mate Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher ruled 2020.
Little Oblivions is out on 26th February via Matador Records.