By P. CLAIRE DODSON
Memphis singer-songwriter Julien Baker has been my most-listened-to artist of the past year. Her debut album, Sprained Ankle, is a minimalist masterpiece — sparse, wrenching melodies focused around shame, anger, and heartbreak. Baker writes these songs as a queer woman growing up in the south, struggling against addiction and religion and angst that runs deep in her work.
All of the nine tracks on Sprained Ankle are sad. But in this post-Thanksgiving week, darklings, I’d like you to listen to the record’s final song, “Go Home.” It’s a grit-your-teeth ballad that has Baker pleading for bed, for a refuge for the strung out girl with “more whiskey than blood in her veins, more tar than air in her lungs.” It’s about wanting to go home, yes, but it’s just as much about wanting to be taken in -- if not by god, then by yourself.
“Go Home” ends with a radio preacher giving a fierce sermon over a piano version of the hymn “In Christ Alone.” It’s a harkening back to Baker’s own Christian roots and a natural conclusion to an album that reckons with the divine. It also feels like the end of a journey. In the last stanza, Baker’s voice cracks as it builds.
I’ve kissed enough bathroom sinks
to make up for the lovers who never loved me.
And I know that my body is just dirty clothes.
I'm tired of washing my hands, god I wanna go home.
It’s a plea to go forward instead of back, knowing all you know now. Forge a new home for yourself; fill it with all your drunken nights, mistakes, longings, failed relationships, dirty clothes-- and then add every good thing you have. Live there.
P. Claire Dodson has written for The Atlantic, Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Vice, Fast Company, and more. She is a music editor for @LunaLunaMag. Follow her on Twitter at @Claire_ifying.