Great Bay looks back on the past, Julien Baker looks to a bright future
Disco-graphy RIP 2013-2016
The first thing a listener and Facebook creeper notices about Great Bay, an alternative rock group from Springfield, TN, is that these four guys and a gal don’t take themselves very seriously. They’re goofy-looking, light-hearted, have a self-deprecating sense of humor towards themselves, the music they make and the way they play it.
But nonetheless, their latest collection of tunes, Disco-graphy RIP 2013-2016, celebrates the passing and death of three years as well as the ease and grooviness that Great Bay can actually pull off. The album has the house-show feel, a living room full of twenty-somethings screaming and singing about, well, anything.
In the album’s opener, “Just Tell Me,” the group starts off on an angry and lonely note, asking a loved one how he should feel and where to go as the group vocals scream, “Cold feeling in the air, feels like you’re not there.” What’s unique about this group and this set of songs is how different one can feel from the next.
In “Last Summer,” an earnest and sweet song about nostalgia and young love changes directly to a self-loathing screamer in “Stall #26,” where the group vocals belt “Make me better than I am, what more could I have done to make it more fun, to make me feel alive?” It’s dark, weird, mysterious and something we shouldn’t take too seriously. Or should we?
The other unique part of this album is the acoustic tracks of several songs that are scattered throughout. What’s different and cool is the fact that the acoustic cuts aren’t thrown at the end of the album as bonus tracks but instead treated as singular songs, a part of the whole story which makes them have a totally different feel than the full-band versions.
Standouts include “Slipping Under” and “What You Said,” two songs that are very different but solid in the same, complete way. Just how this one goes.
Julien Baker is an extremely talented singer-songwriter hailing from Memphis, TN. She doesn’t come from the typical Memphis background. There is very little blues to her songs. There is no hooting or bellowing, no kind of simple man blues to complain about. Instead her songs are deeply personal, diary entries spilled out with the help of a slick guitar that she picks effortlessly.
Her last record, Sprained Ankle, was released last year, but what’s new here is a four-song set performed at the Spotify HQ in New York City. There’s a space that exists in her performance, an intimacy that is felt and hangs around hours after you listen. Put simply, it begs your attention.
Baker comes off shy and unintimidated, a mix of someone who writes such personal lyrics and being completely comfortable on stage. In “Vessel,” with lyrics like, “Pull off my armor, knees bruised and naked, peel back my skin, call out my name. Vessel of brightness, come make me blind, this present darkness is swallowed by light,” it’s hard not to be captivated. There is such a strong vibration that comes through her performance, her big, strong voice, the delicacy of the electric guitar. It’s a skill that is singular and emotional.
Then she ends on the song “Something,” which is a masterclass on songwriting. It hurts so good. It pulls you in, lets you out and leaves you down in the dumps in the best way possible. The imagery is second-to-none, her voice soars as high as it can go and the audience is audibly captivated. It’s truly a treat.
Baker is an open book and we’re all just lucky enough to turn the pages.