Julien Baker – “Hardline”
“Hardline” is the opening track on Julien Baker’s long-awaited third album Little Oblivions. It’s a hell of an introduction. Huge “Sicko Mode” organ blasts herald the arrival of an equally attention-grabbing first line from Baker: “Blacked out on a weekday/ Is there something that I’m trying to avoid?” By two minutes in, the song has expanded into a bigger, more explosive sound than Baker has ever attempted, a crashing post-rock symphony with a subtle electronic pulse. Her final lyric is a dagger: “You say it’s not so cut and dry/ It isn’t black and white/ What if it’s all black, baby, all the time?”
Julien Baker - Little Oblivions [LP]
So yes, “Hardline” — the second Little Oblivions single to emerge following last autumn’s “Faith Healer” — is dark and heavy on both a sonic and thematic level. It arrives today with a suitably vivid visual accompaniment, a fiery stop-motion animation created by Joe Baughman. He shared this statement:
Even after having spent 600 hours immersed in “Hardline” and having listened to it thousands of times, I am still moved by it. It was a fun and ambitious challenge creating something that could accompany such a compelling song. The style of the set design, inspired by a sculpture that Julien created, was especially fun to work in. I loved sifting through magazines, maps, and newspapers from the 60s and 70s and finding the right colors, shapes, and quotes to cover almost every surface in the video.
Baker also offered a statement:
A few years ago I started collecting travel ephemera again with a loose idea of making a piece of art with it. I had been touring pretty consistently since 2015 and had been traveling so much that items like plane tickets and hotel keycards didn’t have much novelty anymore. So I saved all my travel stuff and made a little collage of a house and a van out of it. I wanted to incorporate it into the record and when we were brainstorming ideas for videos we came across Joe Baughman and really liked his work so we reached out with the idea of making a stop-motion video that had similar aesthetic qualities as the house I built did. I don’t know why I have the impulse to write songs or make tiny sculptures out of plane tickets. But here it is anyway: a bunch of things I’ve collected and carried with me that I’ve re-organized into a new shape.
Baker also plays songs from Little Oblivions in a new KEXP Session released today. There’s a full-band “Faith Healer” that’s pretty similar to her recent Colbert performance, a solo piano version of the unreleased “Song In E,” a full-band “Hardline,” and — just before the 43-minute mark — a solo acoustic cover of Soundgarden’s “Fell On Black Days.”
Little Oblivions is out 2/26 on Matador.