by Kirsten Kosik
It is hard to come by twenty-year-olds as profoundly human as Memphis, Tennessee native Julien Baker (twitter: @julienrbaker). A soon-to-be sophomore at Middle Tennessee State University, she has already produced her full-length album Sprained Ankle, which poises questions of redemption, suffering, faith, and existence with unparalleled honesty.
Baker’s album is inescapably human. Her lyrics, drenched in Biblical allusions, experiences of desperation and suffering, and direct conversations with the Heavenly Father himself, offer a refreshing dose of vulnerability. Critics have deemed Baker’s album hauntingly raw and extremely intimate, and rightfully so. The entire record feels as though you accidentally walked in on Baker sharing her deepest affections with the one who created her.
However, it is this precise vulnerability that makes Sprained Ankle unequally powerful. In an age of cynicism, where heart-wrenching pain is met with detached sarcasm, Baker provides our generation with a much-needed deliverance by way of a single medium: the courage to feel. Targeting Christian millennials specifically, she provides a refreshing account of faith: one soaked in failure, brokenness, and pain. For example, she refers to herself as a marathon runner whose ankles have been sprained—directly alluding to the infamous metaphor of the Christian faith as a marathon race (Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, 2 Timothy 4:7-9). Furthermore, she sets up an album that mirrors the familiar Biblical account of Job.
Baker’s album does not simply mirror the Biblical story of Job; her album is the story of Job. It begins with the humble pursuit of faith amidst brokenness as she recalls her first encounter with the presence of God, then relentlessly delves into the question of human suffering, and ends with a humble admittance of God’s sovereignty as the album closes with a piano arrangement of the popular hymn In Christ Alone. Like the story of Job, Sprained Ankle lingers long after the first encounter, leaving the listener with the invitation to courageously step into the death and resurrection of their own human story.
Listen for yourself HERE.