“Bill’s Picks” is a new column we’ll feature right here on our blog each week featuring a new release selected and reviewed by our smartest employee, William Boyle–known as Bill to most folks. Bill is from Brooklyn, NY but lives in Oxford now. He is the author of the novel GRAVESEND and the story collection DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY.  You can find him behind the counter at the record store on Sundays and Mondays.  You can buy his books at Square Books in Oxford. 

Read Bill’s Picks below…

julien baker

Julien Baker’s Sprained Ankle is my favorite release of 2015. The vinyl has been delayed, but it’s out now and in stock at the store and you should get it. Maybe you know Baker’s story—that she’s just 20-years-old, a product of Memphis, has been making great music with Forrister/The Star Killers for years. I didn’t know any of that when my pal Jimmy texted me about her last summer. He knew I’d love her. He knew the part of me that gets lost in the work of Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen would get lost in Julien Baker too. The first song I heard, “Brittle Boned,” was amazing and stayed with me, but the whole record, when I finally streamed it in the fall, slammed me. I love a lot of music; I’m often blown away by the likes of Sharon Van Etten and Water Liars and Mark Kozelek and Damien Jurado and Will Oldham. Add Sprained Ankle to the list of truly miraculous records I’ve heard over the last decade or so. When you listen to it, you crawl up inside of it like a hideout. This is the kind of raw, perfect stuff that I’m always after, be it in music, literature, or film. Baker’s voice reminds me of Carolyn Berk of Lovers, and she’s got the same ability to shatter you with a line. The voice is what hits you first, but everything else is equally as stunning. That guitar. Lyrics as honest and cutting as I’ve seen recently. Take this line from the title track: “Wish I could write songs about / anything other than death / But I can’t go to bed without / drawing the red, shaving off breaths.” My favorite song is “Rejoice.” Rarely have I heard yearning expressed so sincerely. There’s a loneliness here, a deep well of anguish and hope. In that way, Baker’s songs remind me of Jason Molina’s early Songs: Ohia material, when he too was a kid who seemed to have seen it all, to have just returned from some mystical journey. I can give you a long list of reasons why Sprained Ankle hits me so hard, but I don’t feel like I should say too much more about it. It’s too good, too special to ruin with talk. Let the album do its work. I can tell you this: Driving back to New York for the holidays, spinning Sprained Ankle on repeat, I hit a particularly desolate stretch of road in Western Pennsylvania and, as “Rejoice” came on, I cried for everything that is and ever was. That’s rare magic.

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