Julien Baker started making her own music as a way to stay creative during the school year at Middle Tennessee State University. (MTSU is in Murfreesboro, and her band Forrister is Memphis-based.) It's this music-as-exercise mentality that lends her debut album Sprained Ankle the starkness and intimacy of a note to self.
The title track is spare and richly realized, with instrumental backing reminiscent of "Science vs. Romance" by Rilo Kiley (another band who excelled at balancing introspection with relatability). Baker has a soft voice but an assured one, so that when she sings that she's a "sprinter learning to wait," it's equal parts agony and burgeoning wisdom. As a teenager, student and musician involved in multiple projects, Baker may only be dabbling in solo work, or she may carve a permanent place for it in her career. Regardless of where she goes from here, the music she's making for now is wound and salve alike.